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Full text of "Life of Alexander H. Stephens"

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LIFE 



OF 



ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 



BY 



RICHARD MALCOLM JOHNSTON 

u 

AND 

WILLIAM HAND BROWNE. 



NEW AND REVISED EDITION, 



PHILADELPHIA: 

J. B. LJPPINCOTT & CO. 

1 8 8 3. 



y 



Copyright, 1878, 1883, by J. B. LlPPINCOTT & Co. 






<; WASHINGTON, D. C., 27th May, 1878. 

" MESSRS. RICHARD M. JOHNSTON AND WM. HAND BROWNE, 
" Baltimore, Maryland. 

" DEAR SIRS, The manuscript of the biography prepared by you, and 
submitted for my perusal, with the request that I should correct any errors 
that I might see in it, has been carefully read to me from beginning to end ; 
and I have only to say that I think all the essential facts in regard to me 
and my acts are substantially correct. 

" Of course, I have not had time to compare the copies of the letters, or 
of the speeches, with the originals. The speeches, however, have all, I 
think, been published some time ago, in some form or other; most of them 
in the Congressional Globe and Record. If any error in them shall 
have crept into your copies, it can easily be discerned. As to the letters, 
in one instance I have suggested the addition of a few words, to make 
^lore clear the true meaning of what was intended at the time of a hasty 
writing; in another, I have suggested the change of two words; and in 
still mother, the change of one word. These changes have been made 
with tiifj same view. In no instance have these suggested changes marred 
or modified the original meaning in the slightest degree. I also suggested 
some foot-notes which may throw light upon the text. 

"For your very great labor, gentlemen, in selecting and arranging, out 
of the vast materi:;! before you, what you have thus presented, and which 
was so gratuitously undertaken, you have my sincere thanks. 

"As I said to you personally, I now repeat, that I yield my consent to 
the publication of the work in my lifetime only upon the ground of the 
many misrepresentations of my motives, objects, and acts on several 
occasions in my not uneventful public course. 

This letter, gentlemen, you are at liberty to use as you please. 

" With kindest regards and best wishes, 

" I remain yours truly, 

"ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS." 



PEEFACE. 



IN submitting to the public this biography of Alexander PI. 
Stephens, we deem it proper to make some explanation regarding 
the facilities we have enjoyed for the performance of our task. 

The greater part of the knowledge which we have of Mr. 
Stephens s private life, and especially of his childhood and 
youth, has been obtained by Mr. Johnston during a close intimacy 
of more than twenty-five years, partly in conversations, and partly 
in letters containing copious answers to direct inquiries. He 
has also been in the habit of noting down from memory the 
substance of such of their conversations as turned upon these 
topics, having for years proposed, at some convenient season, to 
prepare the present memoir. The letters will be found to refer 
chiefly to the period of Mr. Stephens s youth, and the conversa 
tions to those events of the time in which he had an interest or 
was an actor. In addition to these there has been placed in our 
hands a vast body of letters written by himself to his brother 
Linton during thirty-five years, in which he has recorded not 
merely every event of the hour, with his views, intentions, opin 
ions, but the inmost thoughts and feelings of his heart. So that 
even while withholding the large part of this material which 
discretion or delicacy toward the writer restrains us from making 
public, we cannot but feel that it is not often the lot of a 
biographer to be so thoroughly provided with the means for 
illustrating the character, life, and actions of his subject. 

One of the principal motives which have prompted us to 
undertake this work has been a desire to show the world more 
than it has yet known of Mr. Stephens s inner nature, and to 
present an example of continued, faithful, and cheerful discharge 
of duty during a life rarely exempt from severe suffering both 

5 



$ PREFACE. 

of body and mind. No one who has known him has ever 
known a man more faithful to all noble instincts and all manly 
obligations ; and yet none has known one to whom such fidelity 
was more difficult. 

In the year 1858 Mr. Johnston was visiting at his house, and 
during his stay Mr. Stephens conversed frequently upon the sub 
ject of his early life and career. His childhood had seen many 
troubles. The early loss of his mother, his weakness of consti 
tution, and work hard in itself, and doubly hard for his frail 
body, were heavier burdens to him than even his family knew. 
His extreme mental and physical sensibility suffered acutely; but 
he suffered in silence. They rode together to "the homestead," 
as he calls his native place. Having dismounted, they were 
walking from the present house to the place where the old one 
had stood, when he stopped and said, " It was just here that I 
was working, hoeing corn, when some one from the house came 
to tell me that Linton was born. It was on the morning of the 
1st of July, 1823." 

On reaching the site of the house, he pointed it out, and 
where the kitchen and garden had been. " This old stump," 
he said, " is that of a peach-tree that stood behind the kitchen- 
chimney. Here was the asparagus-bed, do you see? and 
though thirty-five years had elapsed there were several shoots 
of that plant still lifting their slender heads. 

The grave-yard inclosed by a thick stone wall erected by 
Mr. Stephens but a few years before was a few paces distant. 
"Here lie," he said, "many who were dear to me in life, and 
here I wish to be buried when I die." 

They went next to the spring. Neglect had diminished its 
waters, and the rains of years had laid waste its pleasing sur 
roundings. They sat upon the hill-side. " How many, many 
events," he said, "are associated in my heart with that spring! 
How many times I have been here when a child, often coming 
for no other purpose than to muse here undisturbed ! Do you 
see my name carved upon that stone ? That was done when I 
was a boy. Here I have often lain upon my back and looked 
up through the tops of the trees toward the sky and watched 
the flying clouds. My mother I had only heard of from others, 



PREFACE. 7 

and when very young I used to come here and think where she 
then was, and fancied that she might be in one of those passing 
clouds, and might know how my heart longed for her. But no 
human being knew that I had such thoughts." 

When we retired for the night, he invited his guest, if not 
too fatigued, to come into his room. " You have been asking 
me many questions/ 7 he said, "about my early life. I think I 
will show you something which no one but myself has ever seen 
before. 77 He took a chair, placed it by a chest of drawers sur 
mounted by rows of pigeon-holes, on the top of which lay a 
confused mass of books and papers. From the former he selected 
one which was carefully tied up : it was old and dusty. He 
looked at it musingly for some time, and then untied the string. 
" This, 77 he said, " is a kind of journal, and contains some things 
that I wrote many years ago, when I first came to the bar. I 
have not looked into it for years. Noli me tangere, I see I have 
written on the back, and I have many times thought I would 
destroy it. 77 

" I am glad you have not done so, and I wish you would let 
me have it. 77 

" No, 77 he answered ; " there are some things in it that I am 
not willing for any one to see. 77 

He afterwards read aloud several pages from it, and after some 
reflection, said his guest might read the whole. A year or two 
after this the book was received, and such parts extracted as 
would aid in the proposed work. This journal gives no incidents 
of his life previous to the death of his father. Many of these 
were told in that visit and on subsequent occasions. But not 
having then begun the habit of taking notes of these conversa 
tions, Mr. Johnston found that much that he wished to remember 
escaped his memory ; so he determined to get as many written 
statements from hinras he could be induced to give. 

In the latter part of the year 1862 Mr. J. wrote a bit of dog 
gerel poetry, and inclosed it in a jocular and burlesque letter 
signed with the name " Jeems Giles. 77 The personage represented 
himself as a humble but hopeful aspirant for poetical fame, whose 
soul yearned for sympathy and encouragement. Mr. Stephens 
recognized the handwriting; and in a day or two Mr. Giles 



8 PREFACE. 

received an amusing answer in the same style. The correspond 
ence thus begun was continued for some time, the letters chiefly 
consisting of humorous criticisms upon each other s productions; 
and in it Mr. Stephens took the name of " Peter Finkle," and 
wrote in the character of one holding some subordinate position 
under him, but admitted to a considerable degree of his patron s 
confidence. 

Early in 1863, Mr. Stephens being then at home, Mr. Giles, 
having exhausted what amusement was to be had from the sub 
jects hitherto discussed, asked Mr. Finkle to write him some 
thing about his patron himself, his childhood and early manhood, 
and to get from him occasionally his opinions about the war and 
other public matters. Mr. Finkle promised compliance, and 
from time to time thereafter reported many conversations he 
had had with " Boss," as he denominated his patron. 

It was in this way were obtained from Mr. Stephens many inci 
dents of his life that could hardly have been procured otherwise. 
When he assumed the style of a third party, writing to an ima 
ginary person, he wrote with an interest and a freedom which 
he could never have had in writing under his own name. 

From these sources, then, the Finkle correspondence, the 
Journal, notes of conversations, and an immense mass of most 
intimate letters to his brother Linton and his friend, as well as 
from his speeches, letters, and other records of his public life, 
the materials for this biography have been drawn. The respec 
tive sources will be indicated in the course of the narrative, in 
which, wherever possible, we give the words of Mr. Stephens 
himself. 

R. M. J. 
W. H. B. 



CONTENTS. 



PAGE 

PREFACE 6 

CHAPTER I. 

The Stephens Family The Fugitive Jacobite An Idyll on the Juniata Re 
moval to Georgia Andrew B. Stephens Purchase of the Homestead The 
Grier Family Marriage of Andrew B. Stephens Birth of Alexander 
Second Marriage of Andrew B. Stephens Birth of Linton Stephens Mar 
riages 17 

CHAPTER II. 

The "Giles and Finkle" Correspondence Early Recollections Schoolmaster 
Day Georgia "Old-Field Schools" A Mutiny Barring out The Inquis 
itive Owl Schoolmaster Duffie and his Advice .22 

CHAPTER III. 

Home-work Youthful Trials Recollections of his Father A Painful Lesson 
"Learning Manners" Exhibitions Almost a Tragedy Death of Andrew 
B. Stephens A Great Sorrow 30 

CHAPTER IY. 

Death of Mrs. Stephens, and Dispersion of the Family Sunday-School Rapid 
Progress Removal to his Uncle s O Cavanaugh Becomes a Hero in a Small 
Way Leaves School A Turning-point in his Life Mr. Mills A Generous 
Offer Goes to the Academy at Washington, Georgia An Imperfect Under 
standing Mr. A. H. Webster Adopts the Name of Hamilton Mr. A. L. 
Alexander ............. 41 

CHAPTER V. 

Goes to the University Expects to enter the Ministry Happy Days A Piece 
of rare Good Luck Diligence in Study Social Enjoyments One Shadow 
A Silent Struggle and a Final Resolution A Debt discharged . . .53 

CHAPTER VI. 

More College Reminiscences The Pig in Class Standing at Graduation Dr. 
Church and his Family Journal Goes to Madison and teaches School 
Unhappiness Leaves Madison A Secret Sorrow . . . . .60 

9 



10 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER VII. 

PAOK 

A Private Class Mr. Le Conte A Liberal Offer declined Goes to Crawford- 
ville and begins to study for the Bar Hard Work A Damper Journal 
An Anniversary Begins to study Politics President Jackson and the Bank 
Despondency First Fee offered and declined Height, Weight, and Per 
sonal Appearance -... . . .70 

CHAPTER VIII. 

Journal Youthful Judgments Forebodings ./Esthetic Criticisms Opinion of 
Railroads Solitude First Plea Self-Censure Ambition A Critical Period 
Out of the Depths Dr. Foster and his Prescription Moves to Uncle Bird s 
A Shock to Modesty A Narrow Escape A Fourth of July Speech Ad 
hesion to the Doctrine of State Right? Right of Secession Admission to 
the Bar " ~ -T*"" 78 

CHAPTER IX. 

First Case "Riding the Circuit "First Fee taken Hezekiah Ellington--A 
Desperate Strait and a Convincing Argument A "Revival" and the Scenes 
there Increase of Business Buys a Horse An Exciting Case A Great 
Speech and its Effects 90 

CHAPTER X. 

A Hard Winter A Friendly Rival and an Accurate Prediction An Offer A 
Trip "Out West" An Indian Host and his Family Interview with Presi 
dent Jackson Uncle James Stephens -A Toast Dr. Foster again Friendly 
Counsels Georgia Railroads .......... 98 

CHAPTER XL 

Political Review The Two Great Questions The National and Federal Plans 
The Two Parties Powers of the Federal Government and of the States 
Great and Small States Meaning of the Two Houses of Congress Different 
Interests of the Northern and Southern States Apportionment of Represen 
tation The " Three-fifths Clause" The Tariff The North wishes to cede 
to Spain the Navigation of the Mississippi Ingenious Strategy The "Alien 
and Sedition Acts" Resolutions of 1798 and 1799 War of 1812 Acqui 
sition of Louisiana Mr. Quincy, of Massachusetts The " Missouri Compro 
mise* made and broken Mr. Clay s Compromise "Internal Improvements" 
"Protective" Tariffs "Nullification" Movement in South Carolina A 
Threatened Collision Northern and Southern Democrats .... 109 

CHAPTER XII. 

Mr. Stephens Elected to the State Legislature Speech on the Railroad Bill 
Letter of Hon. I. L. Harris Severe Illness Controversy with Dr. Mercer 
Re-election Voyage to Boston Letters to Linton Stephens Visits to New 
York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland Tries the White Sulphur Springs with 
Advantage Friendship for Mr. Toombs ....... 125 



CONTENTS. ] 1 

CHAPTER XIII. 

PAGE 

Improved Health Delegate to Southern Commercial Convention Answer to 
Mr. Preston "My Son" Linton at the University Fourth of July Cele 
brations in Auld Lang Syne Grand Doings at Crawfordville A Speech 
" Caesar and Poinpey" Independence of Party The Whigs Uncertainty of 
the State-Rights Party Re-election to the Legislature . . . ., . .132 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Transition of the State-Rights Party Error of the Georgians Law Business 
Letters to Linton Views on Scholarship, Aristocracy, and the Devil 
Literary Criticism Religious Beliefs Visit to the Gold Region Political 
Parties 140 

CHAPTER XV. 

Declines Re-nomination to the Legislature Letters to Linton Philosophy of 
Living Death of President Harrison Advice to Linton Serious Illness 
Election to State Senate Reports of Committees The Tariff of 1842 Breach 
of the Compromise of 1833 Debate on Federal Relations The Minority 
Report Principles of the Georgia Whigs Resolutions. . . . . 148 

CHAPTER XVI. 

Journey to Florida A House of Mourning The Rays Nomination to Con 
gress Discussion with Judge Colquitt The Tables turned Election of Mr. 
Stephens Death of Aaron Grier Stephens 169 

CHAPTER XVII. 

Debate in Congress Humors of Mr. Cobb Correspondence Presidential Can 
vass Anecdotes ............ 176 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

Judge Story Mr. Clay A Great Crowd Annexation of Texas Speech on 
Brown s Resolutions Oregon Anecdote of General Clinch .... 183 

CHAPTER XIX. 

Domestic Arrangements Trip to Florida Home News and Surgical Practice 
Deaths of Friends A "Real Soaker" -Election of Governor Crawford . 194 

CHAPTER XX. 

Connection with the Whigs Opinion of President Polk Dispute with Mexico 
War breaks out Correspondence The Oregon Question Opinion of Mr. 
Calhoun State of Things in Congress Speech on the Mexican War Letter 
of Judge McLean Misunderstanding with the Hon. Herschel V. Johnson 
A Challenge sent and refused . . . . . . . . . . 200 



12 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XXL 

PAGE 

Position of the Whigs Resolutions on the Mexican War Their Effect Danger 
ahead The Wilmot Proviso The "Missouri Compromise" repudiated 
Speech on the Mexican Appropriation Bill A Queer Genius Speech of Mr. 
Toombs Election of a Speaker Cure for Melancholy 210 

CHAPTER XXII. 

Presidential Nominations Opinion of Mr. Calhoun Mr. Clay Anecdotes 
A Conversation and a Prophecy Death of Mr. Adams Nomination of 
General Taylor The "Allison" Letters Slavery in the Territories The 
Clayton Compromise Speech of August 7th Returns to Georgia Difficulty 
with Judge Cone Mr. Stephens s Life attempted Public Indignation . 224 

CHAPTER XXIII. 

The Abolitionists in 1848 Rise of the Free-Soil Party State of Feeling at 
Washington Attitude of Southern Whigs The Vote for Speaker Duty of 
the South A Bad State of Things Signs of a Coming Catastrophe . . 236 

CHAPTER XXIV. 

Calhoun, Clay, and Webster in the Senate Signs of the Times President Tay 
lor s Policy lAjGrlance into the Future Dismemberment of the Union inevi 
table What the South should do Mr. Clay s Compromise Resolutions 
Mr. Clay s Speech A Sketch of the Scene and the Audience Sorrow for a 
Humble Friend A Wedding in Low Life Death of Calhoun The Galphin 
Claim Seward s Plot The Secretary of State and Sir Henry Bulwer " A 
most Wonderful Characteristic of our People" Sits for his Portrait Hot 
Debates in both Houses Principle of Non-interference established Death 
of President Taylor Passage of Mr. Clay s Bill and Renewed Pledges of the 
Northern States Georgia Resolutions Jenny Lind ..... 243 

CHAPTER XXV. 

Rio the Dog The Secret of Mr. Stephens s Life The Campaign of 1851 Re 
election to the House Disappointed Curiosity An Anecdote . . . 261 

CHAPTER XXVI. 

Louis Kossuth Speech in Baltimore Marriage of Linton Demoralization of 
the Whig Party A Card A Vote for a Dead Candidate Address at Emory 
College Reminiscences of Childhood A Sad Year The Galphin Claim 
Mr. Stephens s Speech on the Bill to prevent Frauds Severe Accident to Mr. 
Stephens Sickness Two Humble Friends 266 

CHAPTER XXVII. 

New Tactics of the Agitators The Personal Liberty Bills The Pledges of 
1850 to be broken Speech of February 17th The Nebraska Bill The 
Kansas War Death of Mrs. Ray A Georgia Corn-Shucking A Visit from 
"Uncle Ben" Speech of December 14th Christpias-E ve The Kno w-Nothing 
Party . . 275 



CONTENTS. 13 

CHAPTER XXVIII. 

PAGE 

A Complimentary Dinner Reply to Mr. Campbell Letter on Know-Nothingism 
Becomes a Candidate for Re-election Speech at Augusta Linton s Nomi 
nation The Campaign Mr. Stephens elected Dead-Lock in the House 
Advice to the President . . .,... .287 

CHAPTER XXIX. 

Debate with Mr. Zollicoffer Election of Mr. Banks A Plausible Scamp and 
a Domestic Tragedy The Minority Report on the Kansas Election Anecdote 
of Mr. Hale Speech on the Kansas Election News from Kansas Speech 
on the Admission of Kansas Death of John Stephens Correspondence with 
Mr. Johnston Negligence of Southern Representatives Challenges Mr. B. 
H. Hill 302 

CHAPTER XXX. 

Adroit Strategy of the Republicans Their Rapid Growth The Dred Scott 
Case Speech on the President s Message Death of Mrs. Linton Stephens 
Sad and Solemn Thoughts Remarks upon Pickpockets Mr. Douglas . . 317 

CHAPTER XXXI. 

Kansas again Walker the Filibuster Interview with the President "A 
Battle-Royal" Defection of Southern Know-Nothings A Hard Struggle 
Intense Anxiety Kansas Bill passes both Houses Speech on the Admission 
of Minnesota A Bird_of_J[ll-omjen British War-Steamer Styx A Reception 
at Athens The Orator in a Panic A Summer Tour No Desire for the 
Presidential Nomination Visit to President Buchanan .... 328 

CHAPTER XXXII. 

A Mysterious Confidence Overwork A Young Protegee Ophthalmic Sur 
gery The Blind Dog s Guide Busts of Mr. Stephens The Mariner in 
Port Linton on the Bench Home Troubles Farewell Dinner offered him 
by Congress Public Dinner at Augusta A Farewell Speech Warning to 
President Buchanan A True Prophecy Canine Psychology Address at 
the University of Georgia Law Business A Rule adopted Plans for the 
Future 340 

CHAPTER XXXIII. 

The Family at Liberty Hall A Cautious Passenger Favors the Nomination 
of Mr. Douglas Charleston Convention Baltimore Convention, and the Split 
in the Democratic Party Four Candidates in the Field Mr. Stephens s 
Views and Apprehensions Letter of Advice The Plan of Safety Duty of 
the Party Sickness Signs of Approaching Rabies " He is Insane !" Elec 
tion of Mr. Lincoln and the Feeling at the South Speech at Milledgeville 
Impression produced Anecdote Letters from Northern Men Correspond 
ence with Mr. Lincoln ........... 351 



14 CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XXXIV. 

PAQ 

Feeling at the South Secession of South Carolina Conventions called by the 
other States Views of Mr. Stephens Real Causes of Complaint Secession 
Rightful, but not Expedient Will abide by his State Thoughts and Mem 
ories A Storm and a Speech Break-up of the Cabinet Fort Pulaski secured 
Convention at Milledgeville Speech Ordinance of Secession passed A 
Forged Speech Sent to Montgomery Formation of the Provisional Govern 
ment Elected Vice-President Inaugurated The Constitution Toombsand 
Cobb Relations with Mr. Davis Anticipations . . . . . . 374 

CHAPTER XXXV. 

Peace Congress Commissioners appointed to the United States Government 
How Mr. Davis was; nominated Character of the Confederate Congress The 
South and the West Hopes and Fears Action of the Federal Government 
Secretary Seward s " Faith" A Declaration of War Speech at Savannah 
Capture of Fort Srmter Call for Seventy-five Thousand Men Secession of 
Virginia Sent as Commissioner to Richmond The 19th of April in Balti 
more Excitement throughout the South Convention between Virginia and 
the Confederate States Financial Policy of Mr. Stephens Death of Mr. 
Douglas Linton joins the Army Mr. Stephens in Richmond . . .388 

CHAPTER XXXVI. 

Discouragements Policy of Conscription Richmond Hospitals Military Op 
erations Conversations How Mr. Davis was nominated Prospects Pros 
pects of European Recognition Resistance to Martial Law State of Things 
North and South Letter to James M. Calhoun Speech at Crawfordville 
Financial Policy Education of Young Men Relations with Mr. Davis 
Views on Men and Matters .......... 408 

CHAPTER XXXVII. 

The Conscript Law Sir Bingo Binks Lord Lyons and Seward Canine No 
menclature Linton s Resolutions Generals Lee and Johnston Death of 
Rio A Tribute to an Old Friend Religion Confederate Bonds Military 
Operations Exchange of Prisoners Proposed Mission to Washington 
Speeches Home News 429 

CHAPTER XXXVIII. 

Sudden Illness Hospitality of Liberty Hall An Emergency Speech before 
the Legislature "Habeas Corpus" and " Peace" Resolutions Weather Notes 
Reminiscences of Governor Troup A Night Adventure and an Escape 
A Cynic Philosopher Notes of Travel Wounded Soldiers Sherman ap 
proaching The Chicago Convention Letter to Georgia Gentlemen General 
Sherman s Device and its Failure Plans of Adjustment Thinks of Resign 
ing Judge Taney s Decision 452 



CONTEXTS. 15 

CHAPTER XXXIX. 

PAGE 

Difficulty with the Senate Address before them Change of Policy recom 
mended Sympathy for Prisoners Resolutions The Hampton Roads Con 
ference Exchange of Prisoners Declines to speak at Richmond Returns 
to Crawfordville Letter about the Conference Sherman s Advance Lee s 
Surrender Arrest of Mr. Stephens Imprisonment in Fort Warren Linton 
joins him Prison Journal Release Life at Liberty Hall Declines to bo a 
Candidate for the United States Seuatorship Urgency of his Friends His 
Election Not allowed to take his Seat Address to Georgia Legislature 
Summoned before "Reconstruction Committee" Philadelphia Convention 
His Opinions of Seward, Stanton, and Grant Undertakes a History of the 
War Sufferings from Renal Calculus 477 

CHAPTER XL. 

Publication of First Volume of his History of the War An Accident Attacks 
upon him The Southern Review Replies Elected Professor in University 
of Georgia Declines Opinion of the Linton Correspondence Attacked 
with Inflammatory Rheumatism Proposes final Retirement from Public Life 
A Severe Trial History finished Another begun Law Students Con 
nection with the Western Atlantic Railway Judge Stephens arrested but 
no Bill found Letter to his Students Opinion of President Grant The 
Atlanta Sun 49-1 

CHAPTER XL I. 

Situation of Affairs in the South The " New Departure" Mr. Greeley Pluck, 
the Dog Life at Liberty Hall Death of Judge Linton Stephens A Crush 
ing Sorrow Contest for Election to the Senate 508 

CHAPTER XLII. 

Candidate for Congress Civil Rights Bill Speech of January 5th Serious 
Illness The Salary Act Re-elected Controversy with the Hon. B. H. Hill 
Withdraws from the Atlanta Sun with heavy loss Action on the Louisiana 
Report Fourth of July at Atlanta Liberty Hall again Sunday-School 
Celebration at Crawfordville Re-election Appearance in the House At 
tack of Pneumonia Report of his Death Views on the Electoral Commis 
sion Mr. Stephens in Congress Speech at the uncovering of Carpenter s 
Picture 519 

CHAPTER XLIII. 

Congressional Duties Re-elected to Congress General R. Taylor s charges Facts of 
his Release from Fort Warren Interviewers A Georgia Dinner Writes a Book 
James P. Espy His Seventieth Birthday An Accident Elected Governor 
Pardons The Sesqui-Centennial Illness Death Concluding Remarks . 539 

APPENDICES . 559-629 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 



CHAPTER I. 

The Stephens Family The Fugitive Jacobite An Idyll on the Juniata 
Removal to Georgia Andrew B. Stephens Purchase of the Homestead 
The Grier Family Marriage of Andrew B. Stephens Birth of Alexan 
der Second Marriage of Andrew B. Stephens Birth of Linton Stephens 
Marriages 

AMONG the Jacobites who quitted England, some from appre 
hension and some from disgust, upon the disastrous ending of 
the ill-advised attempt known as "the Forty-five," was one 
Alexander Stephens, the grandfather of him whose biography 
we have in hand. With some small means, and with aims as 
definite as are usually held by adventurous exiles who leave 
their native country to seek homes and fortunes in other lands, 
he reached Pennsylvania, and at first sought shelter with the 
Shawnee Indians, at a spot not far from where the town of 
Chambersburgh now stands. 

A young man of spirit and energy, just grown to manhood, 
who had been in one war and crossed an ocean to better his for 
tunes, was not likely to remain long with a savage tribe, how 
ever friendly their treatment, and whatever peril might attend 
his departure. His movements have not been precisely chroni 
cled; but we know thnt when the French and Indian War broke 
out, he enlisted under Washington, and was present at Braddock s 
defeat. What befell him immediately after this is not known ; 
but his subsequent wanderings brought him to the ferry at the 
junction of the Juniata and Susquehanna Rivers. The Juniata 
is somewhat of a classic and poetic stream, or at least used to be, 

2 17 



18 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

forty years ago, when a ballad commemorative of the charms of 
"The Blue Juniata" was much affected by sentimental songsters. 
Alexander Stephens was hot accounted a poet in his day, so far 
as we have heard, yet he bore an important part in a small poem 
whose scene was laid on the banks of this river. The owner of 
the ferry was a wealthy gentleman by the name of Baskins, and 
among other children he had a daughter, with whom the young 
Jacobite made acquaintance. Whether her personal attractions 
borrowed or needed any aid from the romantic scenery amid 
which she dwelt, or the goodly estate which she had the prospect 
of inheriting, and whether his own were enhanced by the dangers 
he had seen and escaped, we cannot now say. But these two 
young persons, in the course of time, found each other s society 
so agreeable, that they resolved to enjoy it for life. Mr. Bas 
kins, having made other arrangements for his daughter better 
suited to his taste, refused his consent to their union, and threat 
ened to disinherit. But the young lady was not to be moved by 
such considerations ; so against her father s will she married her 
young adventurer and united her fortunes with his. Her father s 
house was now no longer a home for her; and although the couple 
sued for pardon, Mr. Baskins was inexorable. In the course 
of time the War of Independence broke out, and Alexander, 
who had not seen enough of such things, took a part in this. 
He served through the war, and at its close retired, with the rank 
of captain, to the house he had made for himself on the Juniata. 
Finding it still impossible to conciliate his obdurate father-in- 
law, and the latter dying some time after, leaving a will in which 
his threats of disinheriting were carried out, Mr. Stephens deter 
mined to remove. 

By this time he had quite a family of children : three sons 
James, Nehemiah, and Andrew B. and five daughters, Cath 
erine, Elizabeth, Mary, Sarah, and Jane. He first went to Elbert 
County, in the State of Georgia; but did not long remain there, 
soon removing again to the adjoining county of Wilkes, where 
he took up his abode on rented land, on the banks of Kettle 
Creek. 

James, the eldest son, on reaching his majority, went back to 
the old neighborhood in Pennsylvania, where his descendants 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 19 

still live. Nehemiah went to Tennessee. Andrew B., alone of 
the sons, stayed with his parents, as did Jane, the other daugh 
ters marrying in time Mary, a Jones ; Catherine, a Coulter ; 
Sarah, a Hudgins ; and Elizabeth, a Kellogg. 

Captain Alexander Stephens, it seemed, had been too much 
among wars to be well fitted for the arts of peace. He continued 
to live on rented land ; and now that James and Nehemiah were 
gone, his only reliance for help from his children was on his 
youngest son. Andrew B., in mere boyhood, had shown much 
taste and aptitude for farming ; and he worked on the farm at 
Kettle Creek, and went to school in the neighborhood at times 
when his services could be spared. He made such progress in 
his studies that his father strained a point and sent him to the 
school in Washington (then the county seat) kept by the Rev. 
Hope Hull, afterwards one of the leading ministers of the Meth 
odist Church. This was a famous school at that day. Andrew 
B. Stephens stood high in the master s estimation, as we may 
judge from the following incident. When he was fourteen years 
old, a committee of gentlemen residing in a remote part of the 
county, on the south side of Little River, being desirous of 
having a school on a better foundation than such as they were 
accustomed to, waited upon Mr. Hull, and desired him to name 
one of his pupils who was fit for their pu^rpose. Mr. Hull at 
once named Andrew B. Stephens, who, though surprised at the 
decision, as were the other pupils and the committee, accepted 
the call, opened his school, and began teaching to the entire 
satisfaction of his patrons. 

The young schoolmaster made good use of his first earnings. 
At the end of the first year he bought a hundred acres of land, 
paying part, of the purchase-money in cash, and giving his bond 
for the rest. To this place his father and sister Jane removed, 
and the former spent the remainder of his days there. His 
mother had died on the farm on Kettle Creek. This hundred-j 
acre tract was the nucleus of that homestead which, except for a 
few years after the death of Andrew B., has ever since been in 
the possession of the family. Andrew B., however, did not yet 
reside with his father and sister. He continued to teach school 
until he was of age and married, except for two years, when he 



20 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

was employed as a clerk in a country store. When he married, 
he went to live on this farm. 

His wife s maiden name was Margaret Grier. The Griers had 
emigrated from the north of Ireland, and they too had settled in 
Pennsylvania. We can trace the Griers no farther back than 
two brothers, Robert and Thomas. From one of these the late 
Justice Grier, of the Supreme Court of the United States, was 
descended. From the other sprang a branch of the family which 
removed to Georgia about 1769. Aaron Grier was one of these, 
and it was his daughter Margaret whom Andrew B. Stephens 
married. After his marriage, his father lived with him at the 
homestead until his death in the year 1813. His daughter Jane 
had died before ; so that Andrew B. and his family were left 
the only occupants of the farm. Jane did not die on the place, 
but was buried there in the old family burying-ground, where 
her father was laid by her side. 

To Andrew B. and Margaret, his wife, were born three chil 
dren : Mary, Aaron Grier, and Alexander. Their mother was 
of a frail constitution, though her fresh and rosy complexion 
seemed the sign of robust health. Mild, industrious, charitable, 
intelligent, she was, in the true, old-fashioned sense of the word, 
a "helpmeet" for her husband. Mary, the eldest daughter, 
married very young, and died soon after. Aaron Grier lived 
to manhood, and married Sarah A. Slayton, of Wilkes County. 
He was a man of very retiring disposition, great good sense, and 
exemplary character. He died in 1843, leaving his widow with 
one child, a son, who did not long survive. The widow yet lives, 
and has never married again. Reference will again be made to 
this excellent man when we shall have reached the period in 
this biography contemporary with his death. 

ALEXANDER, the youngest child, and the subject of this biog- 

raphy, was born on February llth, 1812. His mother survived 

him but a short time, dying on the 12th of the following May, 

and her grave was the first made in what was then the new 

burying-ground at the homestead. 

After the death of his wife Margaret, Andrew B. Stephens 
was again married, to Matilda Lindsay, the daughter of Colonel 
John Lindsay, distinguished in the Revolutionary War. From 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II, STEPHENS. 21 

this marriage sprang four sons John L., Andrew Baskins, Ben 
jamin F., and Lin ton and a daughter, Catherine B. ; of whom 
only John L., Catherine, and Linton lived to majority. \ John 
L. married Elizabeth Booker, of Wilkes. He died in 1856, 
leaving a widow, two daughters, and four sons. Catherine, the 
daughter, married Thomas Greer, of Talbot County, and died 
in 1857. 

Linton Stephens married, in 1852, Emmeline Bell, widow of 
George Bell, of Hancock County, and only daughter of the late 
Hon. James Thomas, former judge of the northern circuit. This 
lady died in 1857, leaving three daughters ; and ten years after 
wards, in 1867, Linton Stephens married again, his wife being 
Miss Mary \V. Salter, of Boston. He died July 14th, 1872, 
leaving one son and two daughters by his second marriage. 



CHAPTER II. 

The " Giles and Finkle" Correspondence Early Eecollections School 
master Day Georgia "Old-Field Schools" A Mutiny Barring out 
The Inquisitive Owl Schoolmaster Duffie and his Advice. 

ALLUSION has already been made in the Preface to the Giles 
and Finkle correspondence, and how "Mr. Giles/ 7 perceiving 
with how much greater freedom Mr. Stephens expressed himself 
with regard to his personal affairs when writing in the character 
of a third person, requested " Mr. Finkle" to give him some of 
the incidents of the boyhood of " Boss," as that personage chose 
to designate his friend and patron. On the 5th of April, 1863, 
the following reply was received : 

"APRIL 4th, 1863. 

"DEAR JEEMS, Boss and I were at the Homestead when your letter 
came yesterday. Boss has been down there all this week. He stays there 
now the most of his time when at home. Just before Tim [a colored boy 
then belonging to Mr. Stephens, since dead] brought the letter, we were 
out in the field before the house, where the hands were planting corn, and 
Boss was showing how to cover it. 

li While he was thus engaged, a Mr. Thomas Akins, from Greene County, 
came to see him on some business connected with a son he had in the army. 
So Boss stopped, and after talking about the business until they got through, 
Mr. Akins said, I was never in this part of the country before. These 
hills are all new to me. 

" Boss replied, They are not new to me. My earliest recollections 
and associations are connected with these scenes, though they are wonder 
fully changed since then. I recollect when this field was cleared. It was 
a square ten-acre field, just forty rods square. The first crop was grown 
on it in 1818, the dry year. The land was rich then. It was always 
called the new ground, as long as I lived here. Right over yonder, on 
that hill, I was born, and right along here I was ploughing when I was 
sent for to go to the house. Father was worse. It was the day before he 
died ; Saturday, May the sixth, 1826. Just up there I took out my horse, 
little dreaming it was for the last time. The land looked very different 
then from what it does now. 
22 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 23 

" MR. A. It must be interesting to you to visit these fields, crowded as 
they are with so many recollections. 

" Boss. Oh, yes. I take more interest in reclaiming these old worn- 
out fields than in anything else. It is almost a hopeless undertaking $ but 
it affords me a strange pleasure. I spend all my spare time here. I can 
every day bring to memory some old forgotten incident which awakens 
whole trains of thought that filled my mind in childhood. These I like to 
dwell upon : they seem to give strength and durability to the continuity 
of my existence. In the midst of them I see less change in myself than 
in nature around me. That very rock yonder, the other day, brought back 
to my mind vividly one of the earliest experiences I ever had on the sub 
ject of religion. You see that big gray rock there : it is split from top to 
bottom. Well, when this land was cleared, that split or crack in the rock 
attracted my attention. I could not conceive what had caused it. I asked 
my father what did it. lie said he did not know, but it was supposed by 
learned men that it was done when Christ was crucified: that the Scrip 
tures said the rocks were rent-, and he said that large rocks of this kind 
all over the country were cracked as this one was. This led on to a full 
account by him of the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and the na 
ture of Redemption, the first, I think, that I ever had, as I can recollect 
none earlier. Strange to say, I had entirely forgotten this, until a few 
days ago, while I was having these ditches made, being tired I sat down to 
rest upon that rock, and looking upon the split in it, this early incident of 
my life came to my mind, with all its train of impressions, thoughts, and 
reflections. So with almost everything about here, every day I am here I 
find something recalling memories, some of them back to within three 
years after my birth. Nearer than that to the beginning of my existence 
I have not yet been able to start a trace. Some things, it is true, float 
through my mind as shadows or dreams, to which I can fix no date. 
Among others, I remember my Aunt Betsey Grier coming to see us, 
her crying, and taking us children into the garden to the grave of our 
mother. " 

When this letter came, " Mr. Giles" felt great satisfaction that 
he had thus succeeded in getting Mr. Stephens to do what he 
had been asking him for five or six years to do, to put down in 
writing some recollections of his boyhood. He had never posi 
tively refused in so many words; but he always seemed disposed 
to avoid conversation on that subject, though he would fully and 
freely answer any questions upon anything relating to himself. 
After the Giles and Finkle correspondence began, and at a time 
when his counsels were of no avail for the country, it became a 
relief to him to turn away from the contemplation of our pub 
lic distress to the remembrances of his early years. When he 



24 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

had once fallen into the habit of writing upon this theme, and 
especially as he was now writing under an imaginary name to 
an imaginary correspondent, he manifested a great interest in 
recording these remembrances, and, as will be seen hereafter, 
occasionally wrote with much feeling. 

Near the rock alluded to in this letter is another. It is out 
side the field, over the road, in the edge of the wood. On one 
occasion while the present writer was on a visit to Mr. Stephens, 
and we had ridden to the homestead, we were walking in this 
wood and came to the rock. It is a high, irregular boulder. 
We ascended it, and the following dialogue occurred : 

J. " Do you remember anything connected with this rock ?" 

S. " That I do. This wood was once an exceedingly dense 
one. It seems now a short distance across the field yonder to the 
place where we lived. But to us children, when all the inter 
vening space was covered with wood, this was considered a long 
way from home. We used to come here sometimes to gather 
honeysuckles and jessamine, which then grew in great abun 
dance around this rock. Often and often have I clambered to 
its top. But in early childhood this was about the limit of my 
wanderings, unless I was accompanied by some older person." 

The letter of " Mr. Finkle," above quoted from, gives an 
account of a further conversation between Boss and Mr. Akin : 

" MR. A. Did your father live at this place when he taught school at 
the Cross Roads near where Mr. Lindsay used to live? I went to school 
to him in 1821. 

" Boss. I did not know you ever went to school to him. 

" MR. A. I went to him for about six months at the Cross Roads. 
How far is that from here? 

"Boss. About two miles and a half. That is the place where I first 
went to school. I went to Mr. Day Nathaniel Day for three months, 
in the same year this field was cleared, 1818. There was a young man 
named Benjamin Bryant whose way to school led just along there, and 
who used to come past our house for us children. He was a large, strong 
young man, and he used to carry me on his shoulders. Some years ago, 
as I got on the cars at Crawfordville, on my way to Congress at Washing, 
ton, I saw a tall, fine-looking man standing on the platform, and, as I 
heard, making inquiries about people long since dead or moved away. I 
was struck with his appearance. He wore a long black beard, not then 
common with our people. At Augusta he took the Charleston train, and 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 25 

when we got there he took the Wilmington boat. At Wilmington he took 
the Weldon train. I had noticed him all the way. We were seated by 
each other that day, and I began conversation with him. He inquired 
where I was from. I told him, and said I had heard him inquiring at our 
depot about the Littles and other people, and asked him if he knew them. 
lie answered that he did : that he was reared near that place. He then 
asked my name, and was surprised to hear that Stephens, member of Con 
gress from Georgia, was the identical little automaton that he used to carry 
on his shoulders to school. He was the same Ben Bryant, then living in 
Texas; had grown rich, and was now going to North Carolina on a visit. 
He actually cried when he found out who I was. He left the train ac 
Weidon, and we parted with much emotion on both sides. I have never 
seen nor heard of him since. 

" MR. A. You did not go to your father s school at the same time that 
I did ? 

" Boss. No ; I went to him there a little then in the winter, but not 
in the summer. I went in the fall and winter for about three months, and 
about the same time the year before, over on yonder hill, about a mile off. 
that was called the Woodruff Hill. It was all woods then. The school- 
house stood first on that knoll yonder that looks so bare. " 

About a week after the receipt of this letter another came, 
from which we make some extracts : 

u DEAR GILES, I have not received any answer to my last letter to you ; 
but in a correspondence like ours answers and replies cannot be necessary, 
and need not be expected as punctually as is usual among men of business. 
Ours is a sort of written conversation upon things in general as they may 
arise ; each one talking or writing as the spirit moves him, or when he 
has anything to say, if it be only to relieve 4 his laborin brest, as you 
have frequently so well expressed that idea. For this reason, or with 
these feelings, I write to you now. Not that I have anything particularly 
interesting to say to you, or to talk about; but just because I feel like 
talking to somebody on any subject that may arise, simply for the comfort 
of the mind. Most conversations, I have noticed, are of this character. 
They generally begin with how d ye do, or good-day, or some salutation of 
the sort, and then just drift along as the current of incidents or associa 
tions may direct. This, after all, is the most interesting kind of conversa 
tion to me. Your staid and studied talk, measured and weighed, was 
always stiff and disagreeable to me. It is like going to see a friend, and 
being seated in a fine parlor on a fine mahogany chair with a round- 
cushioned bottom higher in the middle than anywhere else, which keeps 
you sitting bolt upright, with no chance to lean back or turn round, except 
like a fellow on the fool s stool in school. Now I would about as soon be 
in purgatory as on one of these fine fashionable chairs. They were made 
for show and not comfort. Sometimes I have thought they were made for 



26 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

discomfort, to put people in an uneasy and unnatural posture in order to 
make them leave quick. Give me an old split-bottom chair for all the 
world ; and not too low at that, but high enough for the legs to have fair 
play, to be stretched out or drawn up or crossed at pleasure, and in which 
a man may sit upright or lean back or rest on his side, just as he may 
please. That is the sort of chair for me. And that is the kind of talk, 
whether spoken or written, that I like, which flows along in a natural way 
without any premeditation or stuffing." 

At this point the letter branches off into a discussion of the 
comparative value of spoken and written sermons, and then 
comes back to the subject of talk which drifts in any way as 
accident may determine. 

" Such is and certainly will be the character of this letter from begin 
ning to end, for my mind to-day is perfectly afloat, without object or 
aim." 

After some account of his state of health, " Mr. Finkle" goes 
on to relate an anecdote of old Mr. Day, to whom Mr. Stephens 
first went as a scholar, and which we preserve as serving to 
illustrate some of the ancient doings in the " old-field schools" 
in Georgia. 

" This Mr. Day lived very near the house of Boss s father at that time, 
and down to the death of the latter. Soon after that he moved up to 
Walton County, where he lived until a few years ago, when he died at a 
very great age. He was what was called a good English teacher in his 
day and section of country, and though very well to do in the world as 
to property, yet he occasionally followed the calling of teacher until he 
became too old. His greatest failing was his fondness for a dram. He 
was not by any means a drunkard, but the temptation to indulge to excess 
now and then was very great to him. He often got disguised, as it was 
then termed; and one of the sayings anciently common in this neighbor 
hood was, when any of the rustics was asked to take anything at dinner 
or on any similar occasion, I thank you 5 I will. For as old Nat Day 
used always to say, when asked to take a drink, "I never refuse. I am 
particularly fond of it." 

" Well, the boys wanted holiday at Whitsuntide, and as Mr. Day had 
told them that he would not give it, they entered into a regular conspiracy 
to go through the form, of barring him out. All the big boys were to meet 
on Monday morning and bar up the school-house door, and refuse to let 
the teacher in until he had made terms. But a little incident interfered 
with this arrangement, and brought affairs to an earlier dtnoument than 
was expected. Henry Perkins, one of the biggest and stoutest boys in 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER IL STEPHENS. 27 

school and the ringleader of the plot, on Friday before did something that 
brought him a scolding from Mr. Day, to which he replied with some 
insolence of manner. Day, switch in hand, called him up, apparently 
with the intention of administering punishment there and then. The 
expectation of Perkins getting a whipping produced no small sensation. 
For he was fully grown, and had never been whipped since the school 
began. He had great liberties he was & cipherer! and all cipherers in 
those days had, among other privileges, that of going out and staying out 
when they pleased. The idea of a cipherer being whipped had never 
before dawned as a possibility upon these young minds. So you may 
imagine that expectation was on tiptoe when Perkins walked up sulkily. 
But what was the amazement, the consternation, when, instead of stand 
ing out to receive his whipping, he was seen to walk up to the man with 
the rod, whose authority had never been questioned before, and seize the 
switch with one hand and the collar of Mr. Day with the other ! A short 
struggle ensued. Day was thrown upon the floor. All the other boys 
who were in the conspiracy joined on a signal from Perkins, and held the 
master down until he should give up. The little children screamed and 
cried, thinking the master was going to be killed or otherwise dreadfully 
maltreated. 

" Boss says he looked on with interest, but without fear or apprehension 
of any sort. He had no idea that the boys were going to hurt the master ; 
though he knew nothing of the plan or object of the revolt. He heard 
them proposing terms : and it was finally agreed that they would let him 
up if he would dismiss his school until the next Wednesday, and send one 
of them to a little store where the town [Crawford ville] is now situated 
for a gallon of spirits to treat with. The treaty was agreed to, and the 
master was allowed to rise. A boy was despatched for the liquor. Ben 
Bryant, who did not care to stay for the frolic, took charge of his little 
crowd, and left for home before the return of the messenger. It was about 
eleven o clock in the forenoon. Boss and his company ate their dinners 
out of their baskets on their way home, and when they went back on 
Wednesday, they found how the whole matter had ended. Most of the 
big boys stayed until the spirits came, and enjoyed the old man s treat 
heartily with him. Finally, they broke up in great good humor. The 
master, they said, did get a little disguised, and took home with him the 
jug and what was left in it after the carousal." 

Doings such as these were not only common, but almost uni 
versal in Georgia at the time of which we are speaking, and in 
deed for years after. Barring out the schoolmaster was regarded 
in the light of an established usage that could not be dispensed 
with. Not only the boys, but parents and even teachers were 
wont to recognize its ancient authority, without expressing, and 



28 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

apparently without feeling, any dissatisfaction. This liberty was 
about the only solace which the children of those days had in 
passing through that fiery ordeal of education, whose most potent 
and unfailing instrument was the hickory rod. In the hours of 
study, this dread implement was plied from Monday morning 
early until Friday evening late, with merciless persistency on 
the backs and legs of boys and girls, and no amount of tears or 
entreaties at school or at home could mitigate its horrors. Yet 
scarce any despotism is so cruel that it does not relax sometimes ; 
so at Whitsuntide, or Easter, or upon other occasions not too 
frequent, the down-trodden ones were by general consent and 
universal custom allowed, if they could, to turn out their tyrant 
or duck him in the branch. At such times he would have been 
considered a mean fellow who did not send off for a jug of 
whiskey and divide fairly all round. When this feast of the 
Saturnalia was over, tyrant and serfs went back to their former 
estates as easily and naturally as if no temporary enfranchisement 
had occurred. 

Many an amusing incident has been handed down by tradition 
from those old times. The present writer can just remember this 
old Mr. Day, but it was long after he had retired from the pro 
fession. When he was " disguised" by liquor there was a most 
absurd mixture of fun and dignity in his carriage and behavior. 
He had a cook whose name was Sukey. It was related of him 
that on a day when he was returning home in that complex state 
of feelings and thoughts, that preposterous resultant of buffoonery 
and solemnity, which usually followed an occasion of indulgence, 
and was passing through the woods, he heard the hooting of a 
large owl. Now the rustics of that day used to maintain that 
the hoot of this owl contained a statement of fact and a question, 
the latter of which was propounded to every one who might be 
in hearing. It ran thus : " I cook for myself: who cooks 
for YOU ALL ?" So when Mr. Day heard this question sharply 
put to him in a magisterial tone, he stopped, raised his hat, and 
promptly answered, u Suke, sir." 

While on the subject of old Georgia schoolmasters, our 
readers will perhaps forgive us if we mention another, though 
he has no immediate connection with our narrative. His name 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 29 

was Duffie, and he swayed the rod in an adjoining county. He 
was a preacher as well as teacher ; and in the latter character he 
wielded the hickory and took his dram, in all respects like the 
rest of his brethren. He was a great politician, and took a 
lively interest in all the local affairs of the county. One Friday 
afternoon, when there was to be, next day, a horse-race at the 
county-town, one of the competitors in which was one of his 
political leaders, he admonished his boys in the following 
fashion : 

" Boys, I suppose you know that there s going to be a horse 
race in town to-morrow. Now, boys, don t you go to it. 

" But, boys, if you do go, don t you bet. Whatever you do, 
don t you bet. 

" But, boys, if you do bet, mind what I tell you : if you do 
bet, be sure to bet on Abercrombie s mare !" 



CHAPTER III. 

Home-work Youthful Trials Kecollections of his Father A Painful 
Lesson " Learning Manners" Exhibitions Almost a Tragedy Death 
of Andrew B. Stephens A Great Sorrow. 

FROM his sixth to his fifteenth year Alexander Stephens spent 
far more time at toil of some sort than in either study or play ; 
and after the time previously referred to, he was not at school 
at all until the year 1820, and in the succeeding years only when 
his services could be spared from the house or the field. From 
the letter last quoted it will be seen that his schooling in all this 
time amounted to about two years, and that his work was about 
as various as any boy s could be. But from his earliest youth, 
whatever were his allotted duties, he labored at them with a per 
tinacity and effectiveness that might have won praise from a 
strong man, at a time when, to a stranger, the idea of one so frail 
accomplishing anything in the way of work must have seemed 
unreasonable. 

We quote again from " Mr. Finkle" : 

"I have often heard Boss say that he did not go to school from that 
time [in 1818, to Nathaniel Day] until the fall or late summer of 1820. 
He went for about three months in that year, to his father, who then 
taught school on the Woodruff Hill. In 1821 he went again for a short 
time to his father, at the same Cross Roads of which Mr. Akins spoke. 
The next year, 1822, he went for about three months more to his father, 
who then taught near Powder Creek meeting-house, and at a spring then 
known as the Booker Spring. In the following year also he went to his 
father for about the same time and at the same place. None of these 
periods was exact except the first at Mr. Day s school, where he was en 
tered for three months and went for the full time. -His father kept a diary 
in which the daily attendance of each scholar was entered, and at the end 
of the year he (Boss) was told how many months all his school-days 
amounted to. He generally went in the fall and winter. In the summer, 
and at all times when he was at home, he had a multitude of services to 
perform, such as taking care of the other children smaller than himself, 
there being no nurse in his father s household, picking up chips, bringing 
30 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER IL STEPHENS. 31 

water, digging in the garden, hauling manure, keeping the calves off during 
morning and evening milking, driving the cattle to and from pasture, etc., 
etc. When there was hauling doing on the place, it was always his duty 
to mind gaps. " 

He was the general errand-goer and messenger. For all the 
cloth that was put on the loom he had to hand the threads. He 
was a skilful corn-dropper from a very early age, and after he 
was eight years old he dropped nearly all the corn that was 
planted on the place. At ten he could keep up dropping as fast 
as any ploughman could " lay-off." For several years after the 
death of his father he frequently dropped ten acres of corn a 
day, in hills spaced four feet by four. At about eleven years 
of age he commenced ploughing, and in 1824 he was one of the 
regular ploughers during the whole crop. He was also the mill- 
boy and shop-boy, in fact, from the age of six until he was four 
teen, when the family broke up, no one s services were more in 
demand than his. All the infinitude of little jobs about a house 
and plantation, which, in later days, usually fell to the lot of the 
younger negroes, were assigned to him, and he could not well 
be spared at any time. For this reason his opportunities of 
schooling were so few. 

The extent of his learning at this time was very small. He 
could read well, and could spell almost every word in Webster s 
Spelling-Book. Indeed, he was usually head of the spelling-class ; 
and in his father s school particular care was taken with the spell 
ing. " He says," reports " Mr. Finkle," " that he was a better 
speller then than he is now. He could w r rite, and had ciphered 
as far as the Single Rule of Three in the old Federal Calculator" 

There are two courses open to the heart that has passed through 
a childhood of sickness and menial toil. One is, to harden itself 
against suffering and sympathy ; to contemn, if not to despise, 
those whom it afterward watches passing through the same or 
deal, because they are the reminders of what it is ashamed and 
angry to be reminded of; and to be as thankless for kindness 
and friendship as it is reluctant to bestow them. The other 
course is, to bear in mind that there are blessings annexed to 
every estate, even to poverty and toil ; and that one of the 
greatest of these blessings is that by poverty and toil we learn 



32 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

what suffering is, so that when we have emerged from them, we 
may know how to pity and how to relieve. Perhaps the former 
course is the more natural. It requires a certain amount per 
haps an exceptional amount of magnanimity to enable a man 
to look back upon a time when he endured great privation with 
out any feeling of bitterness or shame arising in his heart. But 
when one possesses this better nature ; when he can remember 
that he has borne them all without undue complaint or repining, 
and has stood patiently in his lot until the time of deliverance 
came, and then brings to his higher and happier career the de 
sire to help all who may need help, such a man may, and will, 
thank God for the sweet uses of adversity. 
//Mr. Stephens, as we have seen, did not acquire much learning 
in his youth from the schools of books, such as they were ; but 
in the school of experience and practical knowledge, in the duties 
of the kitchen, the garden, and the field, in the heat and cold, 
on the bed of sickness, by the side of his mother s grave, at the 
pillow of his dying father, in his second orphanage, and in the 
break ing-up and scattering of the family, in these, and things 
like these, he learned wisdom higher than any found in books, 
and by it he grew strong in endurance, strong in purpose, and 
strong in high resolves to do the right, resist the wrong, and 
help, wherever he might find them, the suffering and the weal?\ 

And so now he loves to dwell on those early days, knowing 
that they were of priceless worth to him. As a boy it may have 
seemed to him hard that, with his delicate frame and eager thirst 
for learning, he was denied opportunities of study which were 
granted to so many to whom it was a hateful drudgery ; but he 
now sees that the experiences and trials of those early days were 
the best sources of his education. He can now think of all the 
hardships of those days without pain, and of some even with 
gratitude ; and his affections still cling about the place where 
they were endured, which is still his home, and where he intends 
shall be his grave. 

" Mr. Giles" had frequently asked " Mr. Finkle" to take some 
opportunity to draw his patron into conversation on the subject 
of his father; but this was not done until near the end of the 
year 1863. On the llth of November of that year he received 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 33 

a letter touching on the topic in question. Part of it recited a 
dialogue between " Boss" and one of his nephews, from which 
we make some extracts : 



. Have you any recollection of grandfather, sir? What 
sort of man was he ? 

" MR. S. I remember him very distinctly. He was of about the middle 
height and size, weighing, when in good health, about a hundred and sixty 
pounds, and of a well-proportioned figure. His hair was black, but be 
came slightly streaked with gray before he died. His eyes were dark gray, 
his complexion ruddy. He was not what would be called a handsome man, 
but of a decided comeliness of appearance. His carriage and manners 
were dignified, and his action graceful. lie was always courteous and 
agreeable, but not much given to mirth. He was industrious, systematic, 
and frugal ; not greedy of gain, but proud of his independence. He looked 
upon labor as honorable, and impressed this idea upon his children. 

" His greatest happiness seemed to consist in agriculture and husbandry. 
He was fond of orchards, gave close attention to fruit-trees, and procured 
all the varieties he could find. In grafting he was very skilful and suc 
cessful, and some of the trees in his old orchard, grafted by his hand, are 
still standing. He had a good, sound, strong, native intellect, though his 
education had been limited, and he had not had much schooling. But he 
was a good English scholar. His penmanship was remarkable ; indeed, I 
have never met with a handwriting which excelled his. He was also a good 
draughtsman. He was fond of reading, and spent much of his leisure-time 
in reading or writing. He did most of the writing for the neighborhood, 
and whoever had a deed or contract to draw up usually came to him. 

"In some respects he was peculiar, considering the customs of his day. 
He abhorred ardent spirits, never tasted it, and never frequented places 
where it was drunk. He detested indecent jesting, and no one dared to 
indulge in it in his presence. He never made nor received visits on Sun 
day. When he did not go to church on that day he stayed at home, and 
made his children stay at home and read the Bible. If any of his neigh 
bors called to see him on Sunday, he had a way of his own for disposing 
of them. He would soon give the conversation such a turn as would make 
a reference to books opportune, by way of illustration or confirmation of 
his views. He would then take down a volume of sermons, and read from 
them some passages bearing on the point. This usually resulted in the 
departure of the unseasonable visitor. It was a common remark of his 
that the best way to treat idle visitors, whose visits were without object or 
profit, was to take a book and read something to them. If they became 
interested, then the visit was no longer wearisome, but mutually profitable 
and pleasant: and if not, then becoming the bored, and not the borers, 
they would take themselves off. 

" Though not a member of any church, he was exceedingly exemplary, 



34 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 

moral, and upright in his life, had a high regard for truth, justice, and 
honor, and was a firm believer in the doctrines of Christianity. His family 
belonged to that branch of the Presbyterian Church known as the Seceders. 

" He commenced life as a school-teacher when he was a little more than 
fourteen years old, and taught several years before he was married, but 
never, as I have often heard him say, liked that occupation. He taught, 
as I remember, more in compliance with the urgent entreaties of his 
neighbors than in obedience to his own inclination. He loved his home 
and to be at work; here he ploughed, hoed, reaped, superintended the 
building of all his houses, laying with his own hands the chimneys of 
stone or brick. He tanned his own leather, made his own lasts, and all 
the shoes for the family. He bought little or nothing, and came as near 
living within himself as any man I ever knew. 

44 1 He had a natural genius for almost any kind of handicraft. The 
trowel he used as well as the best of masons ; the saw, the chisel, the adze, 
and the plane as dexterously as the most expert carpenter. His leather 
was as good as any I ever saw ; and his shoes and boots were equal to any 
made at this day by our best workmen. Whatever he turned his hand to 
he did. and did well. This was a maxim with him. which he used to 
enforce by quoting the lines from Pope : 

"Honor and shame from no condition rise: 
Act well your part, there all the honor lies." 

Pope, by the w r ay, was one of his favorite authors. The Essay on Man 
he used to make his higher classes read in school. " 

When Mr. Stephens had at last been induced to speak of his 
father, he took a deep interest in the subject. On the 17th of 
the same month, November, " Mr. Giles" received another and 
much longer letter from " Mr. Finkle." It will be seen from the 
extracts given how fondly he was then dwelling upon the mem 
ories of his father, and how deep the feelings those memories 
awakened in his heart. About this time public affairs were in 
a condition which caused him great depression, and the greater 
from the fact that he felt that his counsels were of no avail in 
arresting the progress of events, or the line of policy pursued 
by the administration at Richmond. Next to a never-failing 
trust in Providence to make all things, even those that looked 
most calamitous, contribute to the best ends, he found his chief 
consolation in reverting to the happier years of his own life and 
the life of the country. He almost seemed to wish that he 
could so live in the memory of those times as to delude him 
self into the fancy that they had never departed or had returned. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 35 

"DEAR JEEMS, Ever since the conversation Boss had with his nephew 
about his father, he seems to be more taken up with that subject thai; with 
anything else. It seems to have opened to him a new vein of thought, 
and he has talked a great deal about it to me when we were together alone. 
Some things that he said I shall try to relate as accurately as I can. 

" The other day, as we were walking together in the field where the old 
house used to stand, Peter, said he, my father was a wise man. The more 
I think of him the more deeply I am impressed with the fact, not only in 
reference to his knowledge of the world and of men, but in all the rela 
tions and business of life. And this brings the whole subject we were 
talking of the other day back to my mind. One of his traits, Peter, was 
rarely to lose his temper. He very seldom suffered himself to get angry, 
and when he did, he suppressed all outward show of it. He never quar 
relled with his neighbors, nor scolded his servants, children, or scholars. 
He took great care to give no cause of offence to others. 

" A common remark of his own was, " Haste makes waste." His rule 
was to keep constantly going, moderately but regularly, and never to lose 
any time. lie never allowed his oxen or horses to be pushed ; rarely 
himself rode faster than a walk, and he would have punished a child or 
servant for trotting a horse from the plough, or galloping to or from the 
mill, even without a load. His rules were rigid, and his discipline strict. 
Punishment invariably followed their infraction, through ^negligence or 
inattention, punishment sure, but never severe. 

" There was nothing about the farm that more provoked him than bad 
ploughing, whether in breaking up the land or in the cultivation of the 
crop. He took great pains with his ploughs, seeing that they were prop 
erly proportioned, and that the share and coulter were rightly pitched to 
run easily, both for horse and man. He made his plough-stocks himself, 
and saw that every part was rightly adjusted. He allowed no loitering or 
stopping after a start was made for the field. Two hours were allowed 
for rest and feeding at noon in the summer, less in the other seasons. 

" My duty, from childhood, was to attend to the sheep. I had to see 
that they were up every night, summer and winter. I shall never forget a 
punishment that I got about the sheep soon after the duty was assigned me. 
One evening, after a snowy day, I went to call them up, fold them and 
feed them as usual. I found them all but one. It was almost dark, and 
the snow was several inches deep on the ground. I called for some time, 
but the sheep did not come, and I returned, and did not report that one 
was missing. The next evening the sheep was still missing, and still I 
made no report. The following morning my father went with me himself 
to look at the sheep, as was his custom from time to time to go around 
and see how every one was attending to his duty. He missed the sheep, 
which was a ewe, and immediately asked how long she had been mi.ssing. 
I told him. " Why had I said nothing of it before?" he sternly asked. I 
could say nothing, for the true reason of my silence was the fear that I 



36 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

should be sent out to look for the lost ewe in the dark and snow ; and as 
I did not tell of it the first night, I held my peace the next day. I had 
no idea that anything serious had happened to the ewe, but supposed she 
would come up in a day or two, and that no one but myself would know 
that she had ever been missing. 

" The affair, however, turned out very differently from my expectations. 
I got a sound chastisement for my carelessness and disobedience ; but the 
evident anger of my father at my misconduct caused me much severer pain 
than did the stripes he inflicted. He and I set out to search for the ewe ; 
and at last we found her dead, with a lamb she had borne lying dead 
beside her. The whole affair made a deep and lasting impression on my 
mind, and I do not think I was ever again guilty of a similar piece of 
negligence. It was not from the fear of the punishment : indeed, looking 
back, I do not remember that I ever had a whipping in my life that did 
me any good ; and I certainly was never deterred from doing anything 
by the fear of one. Perhaps I never deserved one more than I did this ; 
and I did not feel that I had been wronged by it, which is more than I 
can say of many that I did get. But such was my reverence and love for 
my father, and such my trust in his justice and goodness, that I did not 
think he would act in any matter of this sort from any motive but the 
sense of duty. But I thought then, and still think, that if he had not 
whipped me, but had explained the reason of his injunction to me to 
report any missing sheep at the time, and had gone with me as he did. 
and we had found the sheep dead in consequence of my neglect, this 
would have had all the effect upon me that the punishment was intended 
to produce. For it was a matter of deep and painful thought to me for a 
long time afterwards, that old "Mottle-face," as we used to call the ewe, 
had suffered and died through my neglect. No darkness, cold, or snow 
could have kept me from hunting her up if I had thought of her being 
in such a condition. 

" My father s habits as a teacher, and his manner of teaching, I well 
recollect. He never scolded ; never reprimanded a scholar in a loud 
voice ; never thumped the head, pulled the ears, or used a ferula, as I 
have often seen other teachers do. He took great pleasure in the act of 
teaching, and was unwearied in explaining everything to his scholars, the 
youngest as well as the oldest. He had no classes, except in spelling and 
reading, in which exercises he insisted on a clear, full enunciation. He 
was himself one of the best readers I have ever heard, and he was very 
particular in making his scholars attend to the pauses, and deliver the 
passages with the proper emphasis and intonation ; and to instruct them 
in this he would take the book and show the school how it ought to be 
read. In this way even the dullest scholar understood what was required 
of him, and what good reading was. His "cipherers, as those used to be 
called who studied arithmetic, and such as were in higher branches, such 
as surveying, etc., were allowed to study outside the school-house. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 37 

u l His scholars generally were much attached to him. He was on easy 
and familiar terms with them without losing their respect; and the small 
est boys would approach him with confidence, but never with familiarity. 
He had one custom I never saw or heard of in any other school. About 
once a month, on a Friday evening, after the spelling classes had got 
through their tasks, he had an exercise on ceremony, which the scholars 
called learning manners/ though what he called it if I ever heard him 
call it anything I cannot remember. The exercise consisted in going 
through the usual form of salutation on meeting an acquaintance, and 
introducing persons to each other, with other variations occasionally in 
troduced. These forms were taught during the Aveek, and the pupils 
proficiency was tested on the occasions I am speaking of. At the appointed 
hour on the Friday evening, at a given signal, books were laid aside and 
a recess of a few minutes given. Then all would reassemble and take 
seats in rows on opposite benches, the boys on one side and the girls for 
he taught both sexes on the other. The boy at the head of the row 
would rise and walk toward the centre of the room, and the girl at the 
head of her row would rise and proceed toward the same spot. As they 
approached, the boy would bow and the girl drop a curtsey, the estab 
lished female salutation of those days, and they would then pass on. At 
other times they were taught to stop and exchange verbal salutations, 
and the usual formulas of polite inquiry, after which they retired, and 
were followed by the next pair. His leading object was to teach ease and 
becoming confidence of manner, and gracefulness of movement and ges 
ture. He was very particular about a bow ; and when a boy was awkward 
in it, he would go through the motion himself, and show how it ought 
to be done. These exercises were varied by meetings in an imaginary 
parlor, the entrance, introduction, and reception of visitors, with practice 
in "commonplace chat," to use his own phrase, suited to the supposed 
occasion. Then came the ceremony of introductions. The parties in this 
case would walk from opposite sides of the room fh pairs, and upon 
meeting, after the salutations of the two agreed upon, would commence 
making known to each other the friends accompanying them : the boy 
saying, "Allow me, Miss Mary, to present to you my friend Mr. Smith. 
Mr, Smith, Miss Jones." Whereupon, after Miss Mary had spoken to 
Mr. Smith, she would in turn introduce her friends. 

" These exercises, trivial as the description may seem, were of great use 
to raw country boys and girls, removing their awkwardness and conse 
quent shyness, and the painful sense of being at a disadvantage, or the 
dread of appearing ridiculous ; and I have no doubt many or all of them, 
in after-life, had frequent occasion to be grateful for my father s lessons in 
"manners." They were delighted in by the scholars, especially the large 
boys and girls, and in the old-field schools some of these were nearly or 
quite grown. Frequently, when the weather was fine, parents and neigh 
bors would come to the school-house on these Friday evenings to witness 



38 LIFE OF ALEXANDER U. STEPHENS. 

the ceremonies. When such visits were expected, the girls would dress a 
little smarter than usual, and the boys would fix themselves up at the 
spring, washing, combing, and giving an ornamental adjustment, popularly 
called a " roach," to their hair ; and the conversation, of surpassing polite 
ness and elegance, was extremely amusing. 

" My father was very fond of dramatic exercises in school, and while, 
as I said before, he was never much given to mirth, meaning by that ex 
cessive laughter or joke-telling, yet he was very fond of the humorous in 
dramatic form. He seldom had public examinations, but almost always 
had what he called an " exhibition 5 some time during the year. At these 
exhibitions speeches were delivered by the boys, pieces of poetry or prose 
recited , and dialogues or dramatic scenes acted. The speeches of the 
small boys he wrote himself. They were short, and usually took a humor 
ous turn. The larger boys recited pieces of his selection, among which 
there was sure to be Pope s " Universal Prayer," which was a great favor 
ite with him. My brother Aaron had this assigned to him on one occasion, 
when a short piece of poetry called " The Cuckoo" I forget the author 
fell to my lot. I also recited a piece on Charity, by Blair, and took 
parts in several plays. 

" These exhibitions were numerously attended, surprisingly so, under 
the circumstances. At one I think there were at least three thousand per 
sons, and the crowd was like that of a camp-meeting, the spectators hav 
ing assembled from a circuit of many miles: indeed, the exhibition was a 
great gala-day, not only for the school, but for all the surrounding coun 
try. A stage was constructed at the end of the school-house, and dressing- 
rooms, as I may call them, partitioned off by curtains. The green-room 
was in the school-room, and was entered through a window behind the 
curtain. The scenes for action were selected with a good deal of taste. 
None were chosen from tragedy proper, or from farce, but chosen with an 
eye to improve manners and morals. Some of the dialogues of this kind 
he wrote himself. He devoted great care to the rehearsals, showing each 
performer how his part should be recited and acted. His versatility of 
talent in this line was surprising, and the scholars used to enjoy the 
rehearsals quite as heartily as the spectators did the performance. In this 
as in everything else, he carried out his principle that whatever was to be 
done ought to be well done. Half-way modes of doing things, make-shifts 
and failures, were an abomination in his sight. 

" His scholars had a strong attachment for him, and those who had once 
been his pupils seemed to feel as deep regard and respect for him as for 
their own parents. This feeling, I have found, adhered to them through 
life. Whenever in my travels I have fallen in with any of my father s 
old scholars, their hearts seemed to warm into a glow towards me. He 
talked to them, counselled them, instilled into them principles of sobriety, 
morality, industry, energy, and honor. Cheating, lying, and everything 
mean or dishonest he held up to scorn and abhorrence. He was, so far as 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 39 

I know, the only old-field teacher of those days on whom the boys never 
played the prank of " turning out." They had probably too much respect 
and regard for him. 

" In early life he was very healthy and robust, and unusually strong for 
one of his size, as I have often heard him say. lie never met one of his 
own weight whom- he could not out-jump. Wrestling had been a favorite 
amusement with him in his youth -, but in after-life he never allowed his 
children, scholars, or servants to engage in it. His reason for this prohi 
bition grew out of an incident of his life which he sometimes related with 
much feeling. When he first grew up, Sherod Young, a friend of his of 
about the same age, and his equal in strength, to whom he was much 
attached, and with whom he had had many a wrestling-bout without any 
very decided advantage on either side, proposed to him that they should go 
out alone, and by one final trial determine which was the better of the 
two. For a long time neither had much the advantage, until at last 
Young by some movement lost his footing, and my father threw him a 
heavy fall, and fell himself upon him. For some time he lay insensible, 
and apparently dead. No one was present to help. My father used 
every effort to revive him, but in vain, until finally he gave up in 
despair, believing him dead. Life, however, at last returned ; but it was 
long before he entirely recovered from the effects of the fall. From that 
day my father never again wrestled with any one, nor would he allow it 
to take place wherever he could prevent it. 

" But in later years, and as far back as my earliest recollection of him, 
he suffered from some affection of the spine, and could not lift anything 
of much weight, nor stoop without pain. He suffered also much from 
ear-ache, of a rheumatic or neuralgic character, and I have known him 
tormented for many sleepless nights in succession with this painful mal 
ady. He often expressed the opinion that he would not live to old age. 
In speaking of death he used to express a strong desire to retain his con 
sciousness to the last. " I should like to meet him" [Death], he would say, 
" in my right mind." This, however, was not the case with him. He died 
of pneumonia, or, as it was then called, influenza. He was confined to 
his bed nine or ten days, but was not thought to be dangerously ill until 
the day before he died. About twenty-four hours before he died he became 
delirious, then fell into,a stupor, after which he recognized nothing. The 
evening on which he was first taken, he told all the family that he thought 
he should die, though he was not suffering much pain. He had all the 
children and servants called into his bedroom, where my step-mother was 
lying ill herself, and told them what he thought would be the issue of the 
disease. Several days passed, and no bad symptom had made its appear 
ance. The Thursday before he died which happened on Sunday he 
sent for my first teacher, Nathaniel Day, to draw up his will. This was 
done, and he seemed cheerful enough. On that night, or the next, I now 
forget which, I was in the room alone with him for a while, and he told 



40 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

me he was going to die, and gave me a long talk and much advice, speak 
ing with a. great deal of feeling. I then had no idea that he was really 
going to die. I was deeply impressed by what he said, but the fact or 
even the probability of his dying I could not realize. When I saw him 
breathe his last it came near killing me. It seemed as if I could not live. 
Never was human anguish greater than that which I felt upon the death 
of my father. He was the object of my love, my admiration, my rev 
erence. It seemed to me impossible that I could live without him ; and 
the whole world for me was filled with the blackness of despair. His 
whole life, from the time of my earliest recollection, was engraven upon 
my memory ; his actions, his conversations; his admonitions, his counsels, 
were before ine by day and by night for many a month afterwards. 
Whenever I was about to do something that I had never done before, the 
first thought that occurred to me was, What would my father think of 
this? Sometimes I indulged the fancy that perhaps his spirit was watch 
ing over me, and that he saw what I was doing and even knew my thoughts ; 
and this fancy was soothing and pleasing to me. I sometimes dreamed 
of him, and always awoke from such dreams weeping, for in them I could 
never have such intercourse with him as I longed for. There was nothing 
in them life-like, nothing real ; all was shadowy, and he was dead ! The 
inanis imago was all that I could see. 

" But the principles and precepts he taught me have been my guiding- 
star through life. Nothing could have induced me to do anything which 
I thought he would have disapproved if he had been alive. My strongest 
desire was to do in all things what I thought would have pleased him. Even 
now the thought often occurs to me : I wonder Avhat my father thinks of 
this? But the thought brings sad memories to life and awakens anew the 
old sorrow ! ; " 

From this letter it can be seen how his heart was wrung at 
that first great darkening of his young life, and how deep was 
that affection for a father, which, after a lapse of fifty eventful 
years, can still cause the tears of sad remembrance to flow from 
the eyes of the man who has endured so many other sorrows 
and borne so many burdens of other cares. In the journal, to 
which allusion has before been made, he thus speaks of himself, 
on the occasion of his father s death : 

" I was young, without experience, knew nothing of men or their deal 
ings, and when I stood by his bedside and saw him breathe his last, and 
with that last breath my last hope expired, such a flood of grief rushed 
into my heart as almost burst it. No language can tell the deep anguish 
that filled a heart so young ; the earth, grass, trees, sky, everything looked 
dreary ; life seemed not worth living, and I longed to take my peaceful 
sleep by my father s side." 



CHAPTER IV. 

Death of Mrs. Stephens, and Dispersion of the Family Sunday-School 
Rapid Progress Removal to his Uncle s O Cavanaugh Becomes a 
Hero in a Small Way Leaves School A Turning-point in his Life 
Mr. Mills A Generous Offer Goes to the Academy at Washington, 
Georgia An Imperfect Understanding Mr. A. H. Webster Adopts 
the Name of Hamilton Mr. A. L. Alexander. 

ONE week after the death of the father, the same disease 
carried off the mother. The little family had then to be scat 
tered. The surviving children of the first marriage, Aaron and 
Alexander, were taken to the house of their uncle, the late Gen 
eral, then Colonel, Aaron W. Grier, of Warren County, who 
became their guardian. The surviving children of the second 
marriage, John L., Catherine B., and Linton, found homes with 
their mother s relations. 

At this point it becomes necessary for the biographer to revert 
to an earlier period of Alexander Stephens s life, and state a cir 
cumstance which had an important influence upon his fortunes. 
It has been mentioned that his last schooling was in 1823. In 
1824, however, and while he was one of the regular working 
hands on the farm, he became a member of a Sunday-school 
class at the Powder Creek meeting-house. And here we must 
again call to our aid the correspondence of Messrs. Giles and 
Finkle. In May, 1863, the former propounded certain ques 
tions to the latter touching this part of his patron s life, to which 
a reply was soon received. After some rather extended prelim 
inary remarks, the point of inquiry is led up to by the follow 
ing reflections : 

u In thinking of the events of my past life, I am often impressed with 
one fact, and that is the perfect unconsciousness, at the time, of the im 
portant bearing upon after-life that little incidents have, which, at the 
time of their occurrence, were almost unnoticed. In the lives of all persons 
there are turning-points, changes of studies, business, pursuits, habits, 

41 



42 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ideas, indeed, changes of all kinds. These changes or turning-points, as 
I call them, form epochs in every one s life. To illustrate: One of the 
first epochs in my life that I remember was my dropping the slips/ as we 
called them then, a sort of frock such as girls wear, and putting on 
breeches. This was a momentous event with me. changing my ideas, 
giving me entirely new notions of myself, hitherto undreamed of. Starting 
to school was another great epoch with me. New fields of perception and 
reflection were opened before me, and new scenes presented. It was in 
truth my first entrance first step upon the stage of life. But I no more 
thought of this the morning my father gave me the beautiful new spelling- 
book, with its rich blue cover, and told me to go to school and be a good 
boy, than I thought, several years afterwards, that I was turning another 
point in my life when, one Sunday morning, he started me with a Bible 
to Sunday-school at Powder Creek meeting-house. These things, when 
they occurred, seemed just like any other ordinary daily events; yet, in 
looking back upon them, I see that they and many similar ones which I 
have in my mind were far otherwise. 

u That start to the Sunday-school was an epoch in my life. It was then 
that I first took a taste for reading. It was in the summer of 1824 : I was 
a, little over twelve years of age. All my reading had been limited to the 
spelling-book and New Testament. At this Sunday-school we had the 
Sunday-school Union question-book, which was a new thing in the country 
at that time. The school was organized by Garland "Wingfield, a class- 
leader in the Methodist Society at Powder Creek. He was the superin 
tendent. There were perhaps thirty scholars, divided into four or five 
classes. I was put into a class beginning with Genesis, a part of the 
Bible that I had never read before, and I soon became deeply interested 
in the narrative. It was no task for me to get the lesson, though I had 
no other time to do it but on Sunday mornings and evenings, or at night, 
by the light of a pine-knot fire. 

" When I reached the history of Joseph, I did not stop with the lesson, 
but went on for chapter after chapter. I was permitted to recite all I had 
learned, arid this carried me out of my class. I soon went through Exo 
dus and the other Mosaic books, often sitting up till midnight, reading with 
intensest interest by the light of the blazing pine-knots, the only light in 
our house for readers in those days. My step-mother had a candle in her 
room, by which she sewed, patched, darned, and performed other similar 
domestic tasks. But by the fire I read often long after the whole house 
hold were asleep, and that after a hard day s work. I never missed a 
question ; and my rapid progress was surprising to the teachers and the 
whole school. I improved also in my reading, of which at first I made but 
a halting, stammering, spelling-out business. I soon went through the 
Old Testament, in fact, long before the class with which I had started got 
through Genesis. In the early fall I was taken sick with chills, and had 
to stay from school, and in the winter the school closed. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 43 

"My entrance into this school had a considerable effect upon my for 
tunes. It gave me a taste for reading, for history, for chronology. In a 
religious point of view, I do not know that any decided impression wa8 
made upon my mind. Perhaps my moral principles were confirmed, 
nothing more. But it gave me reputation. My rapid progress was noted 
and much talked about; but I assure you this talk did not elevate me in 
my own estimation at all. I believe, however, it may have given me 
some confidence in myself. Before this I was very timid and self-dis 
trustful, bashful, and afraid to say what I knew, lest I should make some 
mistake. 

" After the death of my father, which was by for the most important 
epoch in my life to the present day, for upon it turned the whole current 
of niy existence, I went to live with my uncle, Aaron "W. Grier, near Ray- 
town. My father died on the 7th of May, 1826, and my step-mother on 
the 14th, after which the family was separated. In the fall of the same 
year, a Presbyterian minister, Williams by name, a missionary under the 
Georgia Board, came to Ray town to preach, and, among other things, pro 
posed to establish a Sunday-school for the children of the neighborhood 
upon the Union plan. My aunt, my uncle Grier s sister, who lived with 
him (he was then unmarried), was a member of the Presbyterian Church. 
She was a woman of unusually strong mind, and was what in those days 
might have been called well read. She had a good library, and had made 
good use of it. My grandfather Grier had several hundred volumes, the 
largest library in all that part of the country, and, according to my recol 
lection, it contained many very rare and choice works. These books were left 
to my uncle Aaron and his sister. My aunt was, as I said, a Presbyterian, 
and Mr. Williams, of course, called to see her, and I became acquainted 
with him. He spoke of his plans about the Sunday-school. I was famil 
iar with everything connected with that subject, and was delighted with 
the idea of seeing one started in the neighborhood. It was to be at South 
Liberty meeting-house, near Raytown. This meeting-house belonged to 
no denomination, but was built by the people for the use of all Christian 
sects, without distinction. I took Mr. Williams round to see the neigh 
bors about sending their children to school, and our acquaintance, thus 
formed, afterwards grew into an intimacy, or at least a relation approach 
ing as nearly to an intimacy as could be expected between a man of his 
age and a boy under fifteen. The school was started, with Mr. Charles C. 
Mills, a Presbyterian elder, as superintendent. I entered as a scholar, but 
was soon made a teacher. My proficiency in Bible studies, as well as my 
general deportment, impressed both Mr. Williams and Mr. Mills favorably, 
from which circumstance results followed which gave another turn to the 
current of my life." 

Then follows an account of the manner in which this acquaint 
ance with Mr. Mills had an influence upon the career of Mr. 



44 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Stephens, which we postpone, as it would anticipate the account 
of his school-life while living with his uncle Grier. 

In the summer of this year, 1826, Alexander and his brother 
were entered at a school established by. the Roman Catholics at 
a place known as Locust Grove. Their attendance was but for 
a single quarter, and very irregular at that, as they were often 
required to stay at home and help in the work of the farm. 
Their teacher here was one O Cavanaugh, an Irishman. 

"I came near," Mr. Stephens says, in the Finkle correspondence, 
11 having a row with O Cavanaugh the first week I went to him. It was 
one Friday evening. It was his custom to exercise the scholars in spelling 
by heart every evening. The lesson for that evening was in the old 
AYebster spelling-book, and in that part where the names of countries are 
given. The word that came to me was Arabia. He pronounced it with 
his peculiar brogue in a way that I had never heard, and I had not the 
slightest conception of what he said. He placed the accent on the first 
syllable, instead of the second, and gave the A the sound of Ah, instead 
of that in fate, as I had always been taught. Not knowing what he 
meant, I simply said, I can t spell it, sir. He replied, You confounded 
little rascal! You tell me you can t spell the word? Spell it, sir! Ah - 
rabiaV I was standing by the door, looking down at the time, with shame 
at the idea of missing a word, a thing most unusual with me in spelling, 
and as my eyes rose to his, they glanced at some stones lying close to the 
door-sill. His words drove all shame out of me, and aroused within me a 
spirit of bold defiance. I had made up my mind, after my father s death, 
never to let any man lay violent hands on me with impunity. As my eyes 
met his, I said, Mr. O Cavanaugh, I did not understand you, and I don t 
understand you now. I can spell every word in the lesson if it is pro 
nounced as I pronounce it. But I thought it better to tell you that I could 
not spell the word as you gave it out than to say I did not understand 
you. It was bad enough for me to miss the word as I did ; but, sir, you 
shall not speak to me in that way. 

" In an instant the whole school was still, all gazing at O Cavanaugh 
and me, while we stood looking steadily at each other. He seemed to be 
struck with as much amazement as his scholars. At one moment I thought 
he was going to bring his switch, which he was holding in his hand, down 
upon me ; and my determination was, if he did, to let him have one of the 
stones lying at the door-sill. But I saw a change pass like a shadow over 
his countenance, and his eye turned from me as he said, The next. No 
other word came to me. The class was dismissed, and with it the school. 

" This was another epoch in my life. It was the first time I had ever 
faced a man as his equal. From that time my character was set. It was 
also established in the estimation of that school. Up to that time I was 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 45 

looked upon as a sort of poor, pitiful orphan boy, whom most treated with 
passing Idndness from mere feelings of sympathy. It was known that my 
father and step-mother had just died, and my whole bearing was that of 
one in deep grief. But on that evening the big boys, Bob Wheeler, Rus 
sell Flewellen, and others, who boarded at William Luckett s, right on my 
road home, walked with my brother and myself, a thing they had never 
done before, and talked of nothing else but my adventure. They said 
that they had expected to see O Cavanaugh flay me alive, and evinced 
great astonishment at the spirit I had shown. From that day they looked 
upon me in an altogether different light from what they had done before. 

" Now it so happened that on the next Monday my brother and I were 
kept at home to help in harvesting the wheat, and we were engaged at.it 
all the week. On the following Saturday, O Cavanaugh came to Uncle 
Grier s, as we learned when we went to dinner, to see about our absence. 
He thought we had quitted school on account of what had occurred be 
tween him and me, to which he made some reference, never doubting that 
we had told our own story. All this was new to Uncle Grier, for neither 
my brother nor I had said a word about it at home. Uncle told him we 
had stayed at home to help to harvest the wheat, but would be at school 
again on the following Monday, an announcement at which he seemed 
much gratified. So on Monday we went back, and never a cross word 
passed between O Cavanaugh and myself from that time during the whole 
three months that I went to him. Indeed, he seemed rather to take a 
fancy to me. I was, if anything, too studious, and learned too fast. He 
always addressed me in the mildest and most friendly manner. He, too, 
boarded at Luckett s, and sometimes he would walk and talk with us on 
the way. I really got to like him very much." 

In the following year, 1827, his uncle, Aaron "VV. Grier, mar 
ried. He had made an arrangement at the close of the preced 
ing year with Aaron, Alexander s brother, by which he, instead 
of going to school, should stay upon his uncle s farm and re 
ceive compensation for his services. The same offer was made 
to Alexander, but he begged to be allowed to continue at school. 
" My object was," he explains in the correspondence, " to get 
sufficient education to become a merchant s clerk, as I did not 
believe I should ever be physically able to make a living by 
farm-work, and after saving some money, to pursue my studies 
further, if I could." 

His request was granted, and he returned to the Locust Grove 
Academy early in 1827. But the administration had changed: 
O Cavanaugh had retired and been succeeded by a Mr. Welch, 
his assistant in the previous year, and Alexander soon grew to 



46 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

like the new master even better than he had grown to like the 
old. 

" He was always kind to me, and indeed was never a tyrant to any one. 
His discipline was altogether different from that of O Cavanaugh. With 
him I studied arithmetic. I also read, and exercised daily in writing ; but 
arithmetic was the main study. During the three months of the previous 
year I had taken up this study where I had left it off in my former school 
ing, that is, at the Single Rule of Three, and had had exercises in reading, 
writing, and spelling. But in 1827 I commenced at the beginning of the 
old Federal Calculator, reviewed all the first rules, and went regularly 
through the book, writing out a careful transcript of every problem or sum. 
At the end of the term in June I was through, and was master of the 
book." 

At the close of this term, Alexander concluded to quit school 
and seek a clerk s place, if such a situation could be found. But 
it was a sad day to him when he left the school. 

"I well remember," he says, u my feelings the last evening I was at that 
school. I remember how I gathered up all my things, books, papers, 
slate-pencils, and ink, put some in my basket and some under my arm, 
and then bade all good-bye. I reflected, as I walked along the path home 
ward, that this was the last time I should ever tread its beaten track, and 
the last day I should ever go to school. Life, I thought, was just then 
beginning to open before me. The next week I was to go to Crawford- 
ville, to seek employment in a store." 

Allusion is made to this afternoon in his private journal, 
before referred to, which was begun in 1836. The loss of a 
father so much loved and honored, and the sudden breaking- 
up of the family, which followed, had induced habits of unusual 
seriousness and even melancholy in both these brothers. Speak 
ing of their school-days, in 1826, he says in his journal : 

" We were reserved, mixed but little with the other scholars, and applied 
ourselves closely to our studies." 

Again : 

" In 1827 my mind had not yet lost its serious cast, which, at this time, 
was becoming somewhat religious. I never had been vicious or openly 
wicked ; but at this time I began to reflect seriously upon the subject of 
my moral condition and the principles of Christianity, and my very long 
lonely walks to and from school were not unfavorable to such meditations." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 47 

Further on, when speaking of the close of the summer term 
of 1827, he says: 

" I then thought it would be an improvident waste of money to continue 
at school longer unless I had means to commence a regular course of study 
preparatory to some profession ; but this being out of the question, I 
quitted school with the thought that I had now finished my education. 
. . .. My intention then was to get into some business as a clerk, to 
make money if I could, and if fortune favored me, afterwards to resume 
my studies ; for I had already caught a thirst for knowledge which nothing 
but the want of a little money prevented me from satisfying. I spent a 
few days at home, unemployed, and it was during that short period that 
the scale of my fortunes turned, whether for the better or worse I cannot 
tell. But what to me afterward has appeared passing strange is that I 
then knew it not. Those days came and passed like others, nor did their 
events seem to involve unusual consequences ; yet unimportant as they 
seemed, their results gave a stamp to my character and a new direction 
to my life." 

This turn of the scale is told at length in " Mr. Pinkie s" 
letter last referred to. He says : 

" But now it happened that on the Sunday following I went to the South 
Liberty Sunday-school, which I still occasionally attended, though not 
regularly. When I went I usually took charge of a class. On that day 
Mr. Mills, the superintendent, inquired how I was coming on in my studies 
at the academy. I told him that I had finished ; my term was out, and I 
was not going any more. lie asked further what I was going to do, and 
I told him fully my views and intentions. He undertook to dissuade me 
from them, and asked how I would like to go to Washington and study 
Latin, to which I answered that I would like it very well if I had the 
means, but I had not. He then proposed, if I was willing, to send me 
there. A Mr. Webster, a Presbyterian minister, whom I knew well by 
reputation, was teaching in the academy at Washington, and to him he 
proposed to send me, if I was willing to go. 

" Here was a posing question for me. I said that I co.uld not answer 
him then, but would consult my uncle and aunt and let him know my 
decision. The consultation was held. My uncle had but little to say one 
way or the other, leaving me to do as I pleased. My aunt was warmly in 
favor of my accepting Mr. Mills s proposition, arguing that the more 
thorough the education I received the better would I be able to repay him, 
etc. His offer was a kind and generous one, and highly complimentary to 
me, and I ought by all means to accept it frankly and freely. This was 
the general tenor of her advice. Mr. Mills, I should have stated, was a 
gentleman of large means for that day and section of country. 



48 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

u The conclusion of the matter was that I accepted the offer. My 
clothes were got ready, and some new ones made by my aunt, whose 
whole soul seemed to be intent upon getting me off. 

" So, on the 28th of July, not much more than a month from the time 
I had left school, as I thought forever, I started off for Washington to 
enter upon a new career of study, a five years course. 

" So that day I went to the Sunday-school after I had left the Locust 
Grove Academy was, though I little dreamed it at the time, another turn 
ing-point in my life. And this, as well as the subsequent events to which, 
it gave rise, was intimately connected with my first Sunday-school at Pow 
der Creek. But for that I should probably never have been connected 
with the South Liberty school, should not have been brought under the 
notice of Mr. Williams and Mr. Mills as I was, and nothing of all this 
would have happened. So intricately are woven the web-threads of our 
lives. 

" I went to Washington, as I have said, on the 28th of July, 1827. Mr. 
Mills carried me in his buggy. lie had arranged for my boarding with 
Mr. Webster, an arrangement that I liked, and when we arrived I found 
this gentleman and his family he had quite a number of boarders 
expecting me. He remarked, This is the little boy I have heard Mr. 
Williams speak about so much, and was verj agreeable and kind in his 
reception, as was also his wife. 

"On my entrance I was immediately put in the Latin Grammar (Ad 
ams s), and on the 18th of August I commenced reading Latin in His- 
toricG Sacrce, being put into a class that had been studying Latin all the 
year. Here my Bible-studies stood me in good stead ; I was familiar with 
the whole history, had soon no difficulty in reading, and before long was 
at the head of the class. When the quarter closed with September I had 
finished Histories Sacrce, and I began on Ccesar with the new quarter." 

Alexander had not at first understood all the reasons which 
had actuated Mr. Mills in making him this generous offer. 
From motives of prudence, and doubtless of delicacy, one of 
these reasons was withheld. So he attributed the conduct of 
his benefactor solely to disinterested kindness toward himself in 
his orphaned condition. Doubtless this feeling had much to 
do in influencing the action of this excellent gentleman ; but 
there was another motive which became apparent afterwards, 
and probably soon enough, though the recipient of the kind 
ness then regretted that it had not been disclosed earlier. But 
the regret arose chiefly from finding that not having known 
fully all the circumstances, he had not really been so free to act 
and to decide as he had supposed. This regret could not, in a 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 49 

boy of fifteen, take a sufficiently definite shape to allow him to 
decide satisfactorily to his conscience, his reason, and his feel 
ings, whether he ought then to draw back or to continue ; but 
even then he was not so young as not to feel much embarrass 
ment when the revelation was made. This, however, had been 
anticipated, and was met by assurances which induced him to 
persevere in the pursuit of education. 

The additional motive of Mr. Mills in making Alexander 
this offer was this: The boy had greatly impressed both him 
and Mr. Williams, the founder of the Sunday-school. His ex 
tremely frail physical organization, his delicate health, the loss 
of his parents, and his poverty, had produced a frame of mind 
of habitual melancholy, which, associated with his constant 
Bible-reading, had induced these gentlemen to see in him the 
subject of religious conviction. Such a mistake was most natural 
under the circumsfances, and was strengthened by the youth s 
irreproachable morality, and the interest which he took in Sun 
day-school education. Nor was it altogether a mistake, for his 
mind, as we have seen and shall see further hereafter, had been 
led by his many griefs to turn to religious meditation, as was 
natural in a youth of fifteen, in his deep sense of bereavement 
and loneliness, and with the early teachings he had received. 
From early childhood he had been deeply impressed with the 
principles of Christianity, and his mind now rendered doubly 
receptive of such impressions by his mental and bodily suffer 
ings, his habits of solitude, the influence of the religious char 
acter of his aunt, his own yearnings over the past, while looking 
forward to a dreary future, these causes and such as these might 
well be mistaken by himself and others as promise of another 
vocation and career than that which he afterwards chose. And 
when this career was proposed for him, it is not surprising that 
he was not capable of deciding for himself what was his real 
duty, and that he yielded to the counsels of the only friends 
whom he had to advise with. "And thus," he wrote years 
afterwards in his journal, "and thus my destinies rolled." 
Words which well characterize actions which, in the years of 
his manhood, seemed on looking back to have been done with 
out any volition on his part, as if he had been passive in the 



50 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

hands of a destiny whose aims he could as little understand as 
he could control. 

So misled, or partially misled, by these appearances and the 
interpretation he had put upon them, Mr. Mills and friends with 
whom he had spoken of the matter had come to the conclusion 
that they saw in Alexander Stephens one especially marked out 
by character, intellect, and deep religious feeling for the calling 
of a minister of the gospel, and they had therefore determined 
to place within his reach the means of obtaining the necessary 
preparation. 

In the journal, as well as in the letter last quoted from, he 
refers to the time and occasion when this disclosure of his friends 
views was made to him. 

"When Mr. Mills," says the letter, "made the offer to me to go to the 
academy, I thought it was entirely of his own accord. But when I had 
been with Mr. Webster for some weeks, and he had apparently become 
well pleased with me, for he had talked with me a great deal, particu 
larly about religion, and had even expressed an opinion of my piety, he 
told me that Mr. Mills had made the offer at his instance. He had heard 
the former speak a great deal about me, and he had induced him to get 
me, if he could, to join his school in order that he might grow better ac 
quainted with me, and if he should then be satisfied that the representa 
tions made to him about me were correct, he wished to have me educated 
for the ministry. He added that I had fully come up to all that he had 
heard of me, and he urged upon me the importance of fitting myself for 
the ministry, explaining that there was a society, the Georgia Educational 
Society, formed for the purpose of educating young men for the ministry 
of the Presbyterian Church. 

" This explanation of Mr. Webster presented a new view to me. and, one 
by which I was painfully embarrassed. From very early in life I was 
strongly impressed with religious feeling ; and after the death of my father 
this subject took deep hold of me. During the summer of 1827 I made 
profession of faith, though I had not connected myself with any church 
until I went to Washington ; but whether I should be fit to preach, or 
should feel it my duty to do so, when I grew up, I could not know. I 
could give him no answer until I should have consulted my aunt, who was 
my Mentor. 

" So the subject was left open between us until the end of the quarter 
at the close of September, when Mr. Webster accompanied me home to 
my uncle s to see my aunt for himself. The result of the consultation 
was that I should continue my studies and go to college under the auspices 
of the Georgia Educational Society, and if, after graduation, I should not 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 51 

feel it my duty to preach the gospel, there would be no violation of good 
faith on my part. As for the money expended on my education, I should 
in that event refund it, whenever, or if ever, I was able to do so. With 
this understanding I returned." 

For this excellent man, Mr. Webster, Alexander Stephens 
conceived a strong attachment. How much of his yielding to 
his suggestions was attributable to the kindness and the confi 
dence that had been bestowed upon him, the first that he had 
received from any source beyond the circle of his relations, he 
did not then know, nor could he say now. But they awoke in 
him admiration, gratitude, and love, which in themselves were 
blessings to him. He had noticed upon the Latin grammar his 
teacher had given him, and which was one the latter had him 
self used, the owner s name written in full, Alexander Hamilton 
Webster. It gave him a feeling of joy that his benefactor s 
name was in part the same as his own, and his affection prompted 
him to increase the similarity. From this time he has always 
written his full name, Alexander Hamilton Stephens. 

Before another month was over this kind friend was no more. 
In October he was attacked by a fever which proved fatal. And 
now, in addition to the grief which he felt at the loss of one who 
had shown him so much kindness, Alexander was saddened by 
the prospect that his own career would probably undergo another 
change. But there were others who knew of Mr. Webster s 
plans, and after his death, while the youth was meditating over 
this new affliction, and the changes it was likely to bring to him, 
Mr. Adam L. Alexander, a citizen of Washington, a leading 
member of the Presbyterian Church, and an intimate personal 
friend of Mr. Webster, came to him saying that he knew all 
about his late friend s interest in his behalf, and his wishes, and 
that he desired them to be carried out. He invited Alexander 
to come to his house while continuing his studies at the school. 
The Hon. Duncan G. Campbell (father of Justice John A. Camp 
bell, late of the United States Supreme Court), Mr. Andrew G. 
Semmes, Sr., Dr. Gilbert Hay, and William Dearing, all elders 
in the Church, urged the same. The academy was to be con 
tinued under the charge of Mr. Magruder, who had been Mr. 
Webster s assistant. 



52 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Thus kindly urged, young Stephens yielded to their solicita 
tions. He became at once an inmate of Mr. Alexander s house 
hold, where he continued until April of the following year. 
From that time until the end of the term he boarded partly 
with Dr. Gilbert Hay and partly with Mr. William Dearing. 
He learned Latin, Greek, and the other preparatory studies with 
such rapidity that he was soon pronounced by his teacher to be 
ready for the Freshman class in the State University. 

Returning to his uncle s at the close of the term, he was fitted 
out, and in the latter part of July went back to Washington to 
be sent to Athens. It had been arranged that he should be 
taken to the university by Mr. Campbell, but this gentleman 
was seized with fever and died within a week. The youth, thus 
Deprived of another friend, was sent to Athens in company with 
a son of Mr. Semmes. They arrived the Saturday before com 
mencement, the applicant was admitted without difficulty, and 
thus entered upon a new era in his career. 



CHAPTER V. 

Goes to the University Expects to enter the Ministry Happy Days A 
Piece of rare Good Luck Diligence in Study Social Enjo}*ments One 
Shadow A Silent Struggle and a Final Kesolution A Debt discharged. 

THE president of the university at that time was the Rev. 
Moses Waddell, D.D., and the Rev. Alonzo Church afterwards 
Dr. Church, and successor to President Waddell was one of the 
professors. Notwithstanding the embarrassment which might 
arise from the mention of the terms on which Mr. Stephens had 
gone there, he resolved to explain them, in order that his posi 
tion might be as fully understood by the faculty as it had been 
by Mr. Webster. Here again he found that the acquaintance 
with his condition .had preceded him. In the letter referring to 
this time occurs the following passage : 

" I had a letter to Dr. Waddell. He knew all about the circumstances 
of my going, and gave me a long talk. I was as frank with him as I had 
been with Mr. Webster. At that time it was my inclination and expecta 
tion to enter the ministry ; but my views might change. All that, he said, 
was well understood. The object of the society was to afford means of 
education to those who were thought to be pious, and who would be suited 
to the ministry ; but that it was entirely optional with those thus aided to 
pursue the study of divinity or not when the proper time should come." 

Dr. Church had known Mr. "Webster, had, indeed, been a 
warm personal friend of his. He proposed to young Stephens 
to board in his family; a proposition which was accepted, and 
here he remained until his graduation. 

It was always a pleasure to Mr. Stephens in after-life to recur 
to his college-days as the happiest time he had ever known. 
But to get as full an account of this period as possible, " Mr. 
Giles procured a re-opening of the Finkle correspondence, 
which had been suspended during the summer on account of 
Mr. Stephens s residence in Richmond, and the occupation of 

53 



54 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 

his time with public matters. In the beginning of September 
" Mr. Giles" addressed a note to his correspondent, asking him, 
if possible, to lead his patron into a conversation about his 
college-days, and send him a report of it. This letter remained 
unanswered for about six weeks, though the writer, growing 
impatient, sent many oral messages to his friend, complaining of 
his tardiness. At last, on October 13th (1863), the long-delayed 
answer arrived, bearing date the previous day. It began (of 
course in the character of Finkle) in rather a jocular tone, as 
will be seen by the extracts. After some prefatory remarks on 
the difficulty the writer has had in bringing " Boss" to the 
subject of inquiry, it continues : 

u Last night, however, he and I were together in his room. It was late, 
and all were asleep but ourselves. Tim and Anthony were snoring ; Binks* 
was asleep on his rug, and Troupf was barking in the yard. Boss had 
laid down his pen after answering the last letter on the table, and looking 
at me, said, Peter, it is bedtime, isn t it? I thought, from all the indi 
cations, that it was the most favorable time that had offered yet to mention 
the subject of your letter ; for, though it was late, I saw that he was not 
sleepy, and he had been talking very freely with the Squire J and the 
Parson^ before they went to bed, and he had been joking the Squire a 
little, and so forth. So I said, Boss, here is a letter I had from Giles 
some time ago : suppose you look at it before you go to bed. Upon this, 
he took the letter and read it." 

Here follow some remarks on Mr. Giles s spelling, and on 
spelling in general, which we omit; after which "Boss" comes 
to the request contained in the letter. 

" I cannot give either you or any one a full or exact idea of my college- 
days. They were by far the happiest days of my life. In memory they 
seem more like a dream than a remembered reality. The sudden change 
of my feelings after I left college and went out into the world was like 
the change wrought in tender and luxuriant vegetation by a severe and 
sudden frost. The very soul of my life seemed nipped and killed. All 
my days at college were pleasant. Not a word of censure, or even of 

* " Sir Bingo Binks," a pet dog. f The yard-dog. 

J This was the usual appellation given by the country people to the Hon. 
George F. Bristow, of that village, a distinguished lawyer and intimate 
friend of Mr. Stephens. 

I Mr. O Neal. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER If. STEPHENS. 55 

reproof, was ever addressed to me by professor or tutor. I was on good 
terms with them all, and indeed seemed to be a favorite with all, from the 
president down. Dr. Waddell, the president, seemed to be favorably im 
pressed toward me from the day of my admission. He examined me on 
that occasion. 

" And, by the by, on that occasion I happened to meet with a rare piece 
of good luck, the rarest, I have often thought, of my life. Some persons 
are distinguished for good luck, or what is called luck: I never was. The 
instance I refer to was the most important, or at least the most memorable, 
of my life. When I went up to college, I went alone, and arrived the night 
before commencement. Next day, the candidates for admission were to 
be examined in the chapel at ten o clock. So ran the programme. I knew 
of no other way of proceeding but to go to the place stated at the hour 
specified. Perhaps if I had asked Professor Church or Dr. AVaddell (to 
both of whom I had letters), either would have advised me not to go there, 
but to be examined privately. But being green, I asked no questions, but 
went, taking my Virgil and Greek Testament, the books my teacher in 
Washington had told me I should be examined in. At school I had read 
Csesar, Virgil, and Cicero s orations against Catiline. These, I had been 
told, were all that would be required, but that I should be examined on 
Virgil. I had reviewed nothing not a line while I was at school; but 
while at home I had reviewed Virgil thoroughly, or at least so much as I 
had read at school. I had not looked into my Cicero. 

" When I went into the chapel, I found a large class seated for ex 
amination. They were nearly all from what was then known as the 
grammar-school connected with the college, under the direction of Mr. 
Moses Dobbins. I took my seat at the foot of the class, feeling foolish 
enough, and looking, I suspect, just as foolish <is I felt. I counted the 
squad ; there were twenty-six of us in all. The faculty were all present. 
Professor Church, I thought, showed some surprise at seeing me enter 
and take my seat with the candidates, but he said nothing. Dr. Waddell 
presently began the examination, and to my horror he set off with Cicero, 
the first oration in the book, and one I had never read a line in. What 
was I to do? Despair seized me. I thought I was ruined. I should be 
rejected ! I was in agony. I borrowed a Cicero from one of the boys, 
and looked over the oration to see if I could read any part of it ; but the 
attempt was very far from satisfactory. I had a thought of getting up and 
leaving the room, but I reflected that that would never do ; so I concluded 
to stand my ground, and when they should come to me to tell them frankly 
I had read but the four orations against Catiline, and had not reviewed 
any of them, as I had expected to be examined in Virgil. 

" While I was in this state of anxiety the examination progressed. 
Soon I found them in the second oration ; soon after in the third. Then 
hope began to spring up. I thought may-be they will reach the orations 
against Catiline before my turn comes. Sure enough, the first oration 



56 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

against Catiline was reached, and several were still before me. My hopes 
began to brighten. I thought that by a little reflection I could make out 
to read my portion of these quite as well as I saw the other boys getting 
on with theirs. But the first oration was passed ; then the second ; then 
the third; and the fourth was reached before my turn came. Just at this 
moment my luck or my guardian angel came to my relief. 

" l Next ! said Dr. Waddell, in his deep guttural tone. I rose, trem 
bling from head to foot. "On the next page, beginning with the words, 
Video duas adhuc" said he. I turned to the paragraph, and in it recognized 
the only part of either of the orations I had read at school that I remem 
bered perfectly. I had been very much struck and impressed with it 
when I had read it. It is where Cicero refers to the two opinions as to 
what should be done with the conspirators : that of Cato, who thought 
they should be executed ; and that of Caesar, who opposed this sentence, 
contending that the gods alone should take life. I was deeply interested 
with these views on reading them, as it was the first time I had ever 
heard the right of capital punishment called in question ; and I perfectly 
understood every word of the paragraph. 

" I was reassured and collected in a moment, and read clearly, and 
without stop or hesitation, down to " appetivernnt." All eyes were upon 
me in an instant. The old doctor pushed up his spectacles to see who it 
was. "Parse vita" says he. This I did without a moment s hesitation ; 
putting it in the ablative, governing it by "frui" and giving the rule: 
" utor, abutor,fruor,fungor, potior, and vescor govern the ablative." " Parse 
punctum" said he. This I did, putting it in the accusative, and giving 
the rule : " time how long is put in the accusative." I learned afterwards 
that these two rules were pets with the old doctor, and that a boy who 
showed acquaintance with them always made a good impression upon him. 
He put no further question to me that I recollect. He said that I had 
read very well, or something of that import, which he had not said to any 
of the others, and I felt relieved. In the afternoon I was again fortunate in 
getting a verse in the Greek Testament that I knew perfectly. But getting 
that paragraph in Cicero I have always considered the greatest piece of 
luck of my life. Had it been any other part but just that, I should not 
have come off so well. The impression made on Dr. Waddell lasted as 
long as I remained there. 

" When I went home to dinner with Dr. Church, he asked me with a 
smile if I had been scared. I said yes ; and told him just how the matter 
stood with me, and that I had not expected to be examined in Cicero. 
But, to the best of my remembrance, Peter, I did not tell him that I hap 
pened to get the only passage in the book that I could read in that style. 

" * During the four years that I spent at college, I was never absent 
from roll-call without a good excuse ; was never fined ; and, to the best 
of my belief, never had a demerit mark against me in college or in the 
society the Phi Kappa to which I belonged. No one in my class, at 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 57 

any examination, ever got a better circular than I did. AVhilc I was on 
good terms with the faculty, I was on quite as good with the boys. I did 
not have a quarrel while I was there ; and if there was one who disliked 
me, I did not know it. My room, from first to last, was the resort for a 
large number, more so than that of any other boy in my class. I enjoyed 
company very much. In my rooms we talked, laughed, told stories, and 
indulged in fun and good humor more than in any room in college. But 
there was never any dissipation in it : neither liquor nor cards were ever 
introduced ; nor were indecent stories or jests ever allowed. My intimates 
and associates were a strange compound. Boys met there who never met 
nor recognized each other elsewhere ; the most dissipated young men in 
college would come to my room, and there meet tne most ascetically pious. 

" I was always liberal in my boyish entertainments. I " treated as much 
in the way of fruit, melons, and other nicknacks in season as any other boy 
in college ; and yet my average annual expenses were only two hundred and 
five dollars. My entertainments were of an inexpensive kind, but they were 
relished by all. Tobacco was not on my list. What I saved in hats, shoes, 
and clothes I spent in this way. It was noj to gain popularity : I never 
thought of that ; but only to give pleasure and entertainment to those 
about me ; and I endeavored to do this as much by promoting agreeable 
conversation and cheerful social intercourse as by the little refreshments 
which were always to be found in my room in the proper season. 

" Laughter, even though uproarious, in my room would never bring 
any of the faculty to look after it ; nor were such bursts ever to be heard 
there at improper hours. Had such peals of merriment as were often 
heard there proceeded from other rooms, they would have excited sus 
picion that there was liquor about, and the matter would have been looked 
into ; but I think no such suspicions were ever provoked by any mirthful 
demonstrations in mine, though there were many such during the four 
years, which seemed long years to me then, but short how short! now. " 

This feeling tribute to his boyhood from a man of so many 
experiences, is perhaps one of the most interesting allusions 
made by Mr. Stephens regarding any portion of his life. In 
those days of which we shall again hear him speak, his contem 
plation of his own peculiar case, his being supplied by others 
with the pecuniary means for the gratification of his highest 
aims, without which those aims must have been abandoned, his 
deep gratitude for that assistance, and his religious feelings and 
expectations, all contributed to make his life as blameless and as 
happy as was ever led by a student in college; and in reverting 
to it now, he does not refrain from expressing to his friend the 
value he places upon it. He is a man to be envied who, in 



58 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

looking back to that period of youth which is exposed to so 
many and such strong temptations, can think and speak of it as 
it is spoken of here. But let us look a little closer into the 
heart of this pale and slender boy, and see the one small shadow 
amid all the cheerful sunshine. 

" My days at college were halcyon days, unclouded, prosperous, and 
happy. Not an incident occurred to cause regret; nor have I one un 
pleasant remembrance connected with those four years. And yet my 
happiness was not without alloy. It is said that every house has its skele 
ton : perhaps this is even more true of every heart. My skeleton was the 
circumstances attending my going to college, and the manner of my going. 
I had not been there long before I had doubts whether I should ever fulfil 
the expectations of my friends and my own early inclinations as to entering 
the ministry. I was tormented by the idea that if I should not, I should 
appear ungrateful and mean. It was a source of mortification to me to 
think that I had ever accepted the terms proposed to me by Mr. Mills ; 
and I looked upon the acceptance as the error of an unthinking boy. I 
was poor, but proud ; proud, not of money, personal appearance, position, 
or talent, but proud of character and integrity ; and the thought that my 
conduct might be misinterpreted, and my motives misunderstood, distressed 
me. This was especially the case in the latter part of my course, when 
I had nearly concluded to abandon all idea of becoming a student of 
divinity. 

" Still, I did not permit these thoughts to render me unhappy. Sus 
tained by an inward consciousness of rectitude, I drove them from my 
mind. But this was my skeleton. Apart from this, no college-days were 
ever happier than mine. I stood well with the faculty, with my fellow- 
students, and with the town s-people, and had not, to my knowledge, an 
enemy in the world. " 

Mr. Stephens had been in college about two years when his 
mind became decided not until after much and anxious, even 
painful, reflection on the subject of his entering the ministry. 
The silent struggle that went on in the secret recesses of his heart, 
as he strove to see where his true duty lay, was known to none 
but himself. He was a Christian, and felt a Christian s respon 
sibility for faithful service ; but decided at last that not in the 
fields of the ministry was that service to be performed. So soon 
as he had decided, his first act was to go to work for the dis 
charge of the debt which he had incurred. How this was done 
we find in the Finkle correspondence, under the date of May 
26th, 1863. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 59 

" l After I had been in college about two years, while my religions feel 
ings continued as strong as ever (though they were never zealous or 
enthusiastic, but rather serious, quiet, and calm), I felt much less inclina 
tion to preach. Indeed, I did not think myself adapted for the pulpit. 
I felt deeply embarrassed by my situation. I communicated my feelings 
to my uncle, who was my guardian, and had my little patrimony in his 
hands. Although I was under age, he allowed me to control it. With 
this I paid my own way, and by borrowing from my brother raised enough 
to relieve myself from all obligation to the Education Society, refunding, 
with interest, all that they had advanced for me. 

11 i I felt much more independent when I was paying my own way ; but 
not the less grateful to those who had shown so much kindness toward me, 
and had taken so much interest in my behalf. All seemed to do justice 
to my motives ; and I never heard an unkind expression or intimation from 
any one when, as I drew near the end of my collegiate course, it was known 
that I did not expect to enter the ministry. Dr. Church, with whom I 
frequently conversed on the subject, never evinced the slightest disappro 
bation ; but I have always regretted that Mr. Mills, when he first made 
the proposal to me, did not explain it more fully, with his objects and 
intentions. If he had done so, I think I should not have acceded to his 
terms, and my path in life might then have been very different. That 
great turning-point, passed so unconsciously on the Sunday I went to 
South Liberty Church after quitting Welch s school, might have sent me 
adrift in a very different way. How little we know of our destiny, or 
upon what a slender thread it often hangs ! " 



CHAPTER VI. 

More College Keminiscences The Pig in Class Standing at Graduation 
Dr. Church and his Family Journal Goes to Madison and teaches 
School Unhappiness Leaves Madison A Secret Sorrow. 

IN the beginning of the year 1858, Mr. Johnston went to 
Athens to reside as a professor in the State University. The 
recitation-room assigned to him was that which had long been 
occupied by the Professor of Ancient Languages. Shortly 
after taking his place, he wrote from that room a letter to Mr. 
Stephens, who was then at Washington, filling the last term of 
his service in Congress. The change of place and of fortunes, 
and the allusion to that especial room, brought to his mind many 
recollections of his own times, and gave rise to a letter, portions 
of which are hereto appended. And if we dwell somewhat at 
length on this particular portion of his life, it must be remem 
bered how great an influence it had in shaping his mind and 
character. 

After mentioning that he had heard thrpngh friends of his 
correspondent s removal to the university, he thus proceeds : 

"Yet all that I had thus learned of your whereabouts came far short 
of the satisfaction which your letter afforded. The picture you gave of 
that old recitation-room was a treat in itself. It vividly brought to my 
mind some ludicrous scenes of many years ago. There old man Hopkins 
used to sit and have recitations in Blair s Lectures. There Lehman used 
to drill us in Greek, and make us laugh at his attempts to speak English. 
There Shannon used to warm into enthusiasm while he unfolded to us the 
beauties of Cicero s De Oratore. And there, too, the boys used to play 
tricks on the aforesaid professors. 

" One day, while Hopkins had us in charge, a little mangy pig was 
slipped in at the door. Professor Hopkins was a venerable old man, who 
wore a long queue of silvery whiteness; and the pig s tail was arranged 
so as to present as close a resemblance as possible to this queue, lie bore 
the joke with the philosophy of Socrates, while the young rascals roared 
with laughter. The pig walked about the room, grunting at frequent 
60 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 61 

intervals, and at each grunt shaking its queue, a performance which at 
each repetition brought a new burst of merriment. Some laughed till they 
cried. Poor old man! I don t know what has become of him. I won 
der if you will have such a set of fellows as he had. If so, may you bear 
with them as he did. 

" Shannon was fiery and passionate. He was fond of fiddling, but could 
not bear to hear any one whistle ; it almost threw him into tits. One day 
some fellow sauntered along the passage, whistling. Shannon shut the 
book and bounded to the door. The fellow heard him coming and bolted 
down the steps, Shannon after him ; but the culprit escaped into some 
one of the rooms. The .professor returned, baffled, but with such a look 
as silenced at once the laugh his exit had excited. Soon after this inci 
dent, a student perhaps the same came up to the door and bleated like 
a goat. Shannon sprang again to the door, but the key being on the out 
side, the offender gave it a turn, and raised a loud ha! ha! of derision. 

" These are some of the incidents your account of your locus in quo 
brings to my mind. Who knows what trains of thought a word may 
sometimes start! My comrades and associates of that day, where are 
they ? Many of them are dead. Peace to their ashes, and honor to their 
memories. Those of us who yet remain must follow soon. The last time 
I left that room, and the rest, I did it with a sad heart, and took a formal 
farewell. The memories of the pleasant hours I had passed in each 
crowded upon me. The deep gloom of an uncertain and impenetrable 
future was settling closely, heavily, and darkly around me. Almost with 
tears I bade farewell to those old familiar halls. Even then I had had 
some foreshadowing of the bitter pangs I should suffer in the severance 
of the ties that bound me there. But how little did I know or even con 
jecture of that real agony of spirit which life s conflicts so soon inflicted ! 
Few mortals have ever suffered what I did for some years after I left col 
lege. Indeed, I believe but few mortals are capable of enduring what I 
endured. 

"But why does my mind still run on in this train? It is that recita 
tion-room with its associations." 

Here the letter branches off into a criticism upon a story the 
writer had been recently reading. It concludes thus : 

" And now I must bid you good-night. It is late. I have been writing 
until I can hardly make letters that you can decipher. I do trust that you 
will succeed well in your new situation, be useful to yourself and to others, 
and above all, so far as you are individually concerned, be happy. How 
much that means!" 

Some time after this he referred in a letter to a subject his 
correspondent had made inquiry about : his comparative stand- 



62 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ing in his class, and whether he had not received the highest 
honors. His answer was that, at the commencement at which 
he was graduated, there was no distribution of honors. His 
recollection, however, was that his average standing, in the cir 
culars sent home at the close of every term, was equal to the 
best, and that in one he had a special mark of distinction higher 
than all. He requested that, if the old record-book could be 
found, it should be examined for the purpose of ascertaining the 
facts of the case. After some search, the book was found, and a 
transcript of the record of the graduating class of 1832 was 
sent to him. By this it appeared that his comparative standing 
was better than he had supposed. If honors had been then dis 
tributed according to the present rule in Southern universities, 
he would have received the first honor. 

The Rev. Alonzo Church, in whose family Mr. Stephens 
boarded, was then Professor of Mathematics, and after the re 
tirement of Dr. Waddell, became the president of the univer 
sity, in which position he remained until his resignation in 1859. 
A friendship arose between him and young Stephens, with whose 
character, both in boyhood and manhood, he was much im 
pressed ; and this friendship lasted unbroken until the death of 
Dr. Church. In this excellent man s house were practised all 
the social virtues and amenities which add the crowning grace 
to home. A poor boy could not have entered any family in 
which there were better opportunities for learning those small 
moralities which it is so important for a young man to acquire. 
It was painful for young Stephens to separate from this family, 
of which he had been a member for so long. Perhaps more 
painful yet to bid farewell to the college companions with whom 
for the first time he had enjoyed congeniality and intimacy. 

Although, like most youths on leaving college, he fancied the 
world he was about to enter to be better than it really is, yet he 
was not without a foreshadowing of trials in store. And when 
on that first Monday of August, 1832, his companions were full 
of hope and confidence, he, the best scholar, the first debater, in 
his plain dress, with his frail form and dark brilliant eyes glow 
ing from a pale face that had never known and never would 
know the hue of health, went upon the rostrum, performed his 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 63 

part simply, but well, and no one knew how his spirit shrank 
from the battle which was to begin on the morrow. 

In his journal are recorded some of his reflections upon this 
epoch in his life. As this journal was begun not very long after 
his graduation, it may be as well to give in this connection the 
introduction with which he opened it. It begins thus: 

"THIS BOOK 

was bought this day, April 19th, 1834 (it being Saturday), of the house 
of Janes & Co., in the town of Crawfordville, Georgia, for the purpose of 
registering herein some of the changing scenes and varying events of each 
passing day. To this use I devote it, hoping that I may never be induced 
to consider the purchase-money ill-spent. Should this hope, however, as 
is unfortunately too often the case in human anticipations, prove illusory, 
I shall have a twofold consolation wherefrom to draw comfort. In the 
first place (if the recollection of former pain can be any mitigation to 
present), the knowledge of its not being the first time of my having suf 
fered from similar disappointments. Then a lively remembrance of having 
often spent much larger sums in much less worthy causes. 

" I have long since determined in my mind the importance of preserving, 
by a committal to paper, a daily memorandum of the most interesting in 
cidents and occurrences and subjects of observation, accompanied with 
such reflections as might be suggested to the mind under the action of 
their immediate influence. 

" A plan of this kind I once adopted, but was so unfortunate as to lose 
the whole fruit of rny labors in this line, together with many other articles 
of value, in a trunk which was either misplaced or stolen from an inn in 
"NVarrenton ; and as I do not feel entirely dispirited by this discouragement, 
I have resolved to commence a similar one, profiting as much as possible 
in its general management by former experience, as I think such a course 
will be attended by advantages, some of which it may be proper here to 
enumerate, such as the improvement of style which this habitual dictation 
on familiar and commonplace subjects will necessarily effect. The recol 
lection of facts, scenes, and events it will more indelibly impress upon the 
memory ; and as no inconsiderable portion of pleasures which constitute 
human happiness is derived from leisurely reviewing the past, this may 
be a depository ever at hand to which the mind, when unengaged, may 
revert, and draw stores of pure delights and unfeigned enjoyments. As 
the eye may hereafter be glancing over these pages, tracing the history of 
days forgotten, often may it light upon some little remark or circumstance 
penned with the views, feelings, and prejudices of its own date, and awaken 
long trains of slumbering thought, while a thousand concurrent recollec 
tions of the same period spring instantly into being, when the whole sub 
ject-matter with all its attendants almost quickens into lively existence. 



64 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Thus I expect to fill up much of the great vacuum of idle moments, when 
time hangs heavily, and ennui and restlessness feed upon the soul, by an 
occasional retrospection of these pages. From them too I hope to derive 
not only the pleasures of calling to mind and living over the scenes of 
other days, but also to draw, should a kind Providence spare me, many 
lessons for the future, by comparing the present of all my days to come 
with similar appearances of the past." 

There is a singular proneness in melancholy minds to keep 
a daily record of their actions, feelings, and reflections. Un 
healthy as the practice is, they seem drawn to it by some neces 
sity, or some craving of their nature. In some it leads to morbid 
introspection and self-anatomy ; in others it feeds an equally 
morbid egotism, and in all it is prejudicial to a natural healthful 
play and balance of the faculties. In the outset of his career 
as a lawyer, we thus find Mr. Stephens following the usual bent 
of such minds, turning inwards and feeding his inner life upon 
itself, and, like Bellerophon, eating his own heart. Without 
friends, without money, without health, in the neighborhood in 
which he had been born and reared, and where for him the 
chance was least of being honored for what gifts he might pos 
sess, looking sadly back upon the four bright years he had passed, 
and travelling on in the darkness which thickened before him, 
the young man must needs get for himself a book, by means of 
which, for lack of companions, he could commune with his past 
self. While we cannot say that this journal had the mischiev 
ous results that often follow the practice, there can be no doubt 
that it deepened for a while the sadness of a nature prone to 
melancholy, and made slower of healing the wounds received in 
the struggle he had to pass through. Fortunately for him, it 
was not continued long. His fortitude, courage, and assiduity 
after a while brought him friends, and with more active employ 
ment and brightening prospects, his mind sought other and 
healthier occupation. 

Upon the introduction above quoted, follows a short account 
of his previous life down to the time of his graduation. Then 
come his reflections upon leaving college, some extracts from 
which we subjoin : 

" All students, upon leaving the place to which they become attached 
while acquiring their education, and bidding a last farewell to many dear 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 65 

companions to whom they feel bound by the tenderest ties of friendship, 
increased by years of innocent youthful intercourse, can but feel bitter 
pangs at this severance of affections. . . . Feeling was always my charac 
teristic quality, and it was called peculiarly into exercise at the dissolution 
of my college acquaintanceships, not only on account of the purest love 
and the warmest affection with which my heart glowed toward many whom 
I loved as brothers, and who have yet, and ever will have, an enduring 
existence upon the tablet of my memory, but on account of intimacies and 
connections which had been formed and strengthened between myself and 
others, which I felt were ill suited to our different conditions in life. In 
college were students of all conditions; the wealthy, however, forming the 
greater number. Wi.th many of these I had become quite intimate, and 
though I knew that I was poor, yet of my poverty I then seldom thought. 
With economy I had enough to pay my annual expenses and appear in 
uniform with the rest. There were there no distinctions but of merit. 
By a man s talents was he measured. This to me then seemed as it should 
be ; nor do I now dispute the principle in the abstract, but it was injurious 
to me in the result. For from the stand which I took in my class I had 
acquired a considerable reputation in the opinion of all ; I had extensive 
influence, and enjoyed the pleasure of having my judgment consulted on 
all occasions of importance, and thus of course lost sight of social distinc 
tion. I did not sufficiently consider that college-life would not always last; 
that I was then only preparing for future scenes in the drama of life, and 
that when the period should arrive for me to take my stand among the 
citizens of the land, I should be compelled to leave the libraries, the gar 
dens, the societies, the museum, and all the other delightful haunts of 
learning, and become dependent on my own exertions for success in a sel 
fish world, while those whom I had considered by far my inferiors would 
be revelling in their fortunes and indulging to the full in the pleasures of 
life. 

" My whole thirst was for books, for science, and for learning. Money 
I had no further care or thought for than just to meet my little necessary 
contingencies. Upon its nature, value, and importance among men I had 
bestowed no consideration, nor did I think that my little annuity of two 
hundred and five dollars would soon fail, or how its place afterwards 
would be supplied. Such speculations troubled me not, bent as I was 
upon intellectual research. And thus I lived, breathing the true spirit of 
cheerfulness, until the day of separation came, when the charm was dis 
solved, the spell broken, when I saw those over whom I had long had a 
nominal, if not a real ascendency, stepping forth into the luxuries of large 
patrimonies, . . . with no care upon the mind but to search for the 
newest pleasures, while I was, by necessity, driven from my studies, com 
pelled to reverse my position from a pupil to a teacher, and not only be 
withdrawn from a circle of cheerful and warm-hearted friends and placed 
among strangers, but be doomed to the dungeon-like confinement of a 

5 



66 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

school-room, -where I saw nothing and heard nothing from day to day but 
the same round of intolerable monotony. My feelings sank, my hopes 
expired, my soul withered. Then, indeed, I learned the use and importance 
of money. I then saw that it was money that regulates human society and 
appoints each his place ; and often, when worn down by the labors of the 
day, I lay awake thinking of my situation in college and equality there with 
my wealthy associates, I have with tears sent forth this heart-felt ejaculation : 

1 si sit mihi pecunia, quid non effecero ! 

and have had no other consolation than the Stoic s motto, Cedendnm est 
fato: 

" My first residence after graduation was Madison, Morgan County, and 
my situation was that of usher in the academy of that place. Here I 
stayed four months, and a more miserable four months I never spent, 
principally owing to the causes I have just stated." 

But a fuller and more entertaining account of these four 
months in Madison has been furnished in the Finkle corre 
spondence. 

On November 4th, 1863, " Mr. Giles" addressed a long letter 
to his friend. Mr. Stephens had been on a visit to Atlanta, in 
consequence of a despatch from the President of the Confederate 
States requesting hini to meet him there. Mr. Davis had come 
down from Richmond shortly after the battle of Chickamauga 
in order to visit the army then under General Bragg. " Mr. 
Finkle" reports a long conversation which occurred on the cars, 
from which we extract a portion. 

"We got to Madison about ten o clock. Here the cars again stopped 
for some time. Boss went to the door of the postal car (in which we were 
travelling), looked out, and said to me, Come here, Peter. I went. I 
want to show you the place where I spent four of the most miserable 
months of my life. I reached here on the 2d day of August, 1832, having 
left Athens the day after I graduated, and came here to teach school as 
assistant to Mr. Leander A. Lewis, who had charge of the academy ; an 
arrangement I had made before the close of my collegiate term. That is 
the old academy building ; you can see it still standing, that dark, rusty, 
black, unpainted building upon the hill. Look up the street yonder, that 
street that runs directly across here from where the cars stop to the public 
square. Do you see that house there to the left of the street with a little 
office-looking house just this side of it? Well, in that house Lewis and I 
boarded, and that little office was our bedroom. We boarded with Mr. 
Lucius L. Wittich, who had formerly practised law, and the room we occu- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 67 

pied had been his office. He was an intelligent and agreeable man, and 
had an amiable wife. Both have been dead for many years. 

" Well, in that little office I spent some most miserable days ; and I 
seldom pass here without thinking of them. 

" Was it teaching, I asked, * that made you so unhappy? 

" I don t know that it was, said Boss : * I don t know what it was, any 
more than the newly-born babe knows what makes it cry. Perhaps it is 
the roughness of the softest elements of the sphere of its new existence 
fretting the nervous net-work of its tender skin. I, like a new-born babe, 
was translated to a new sphere of action, if not of existence, and the 
external nervous texture may have been too delicate ; at any rate, the 
whole world and everything I came into contact with gave me pain. I 
was miserable, like the child. I uttered my sufferings in cries of the soul, 
if not of the body, and sometimes the last also. I used to walk this road 
by break of day, leading out of town here, the Athens road. Mr. Lewis 
was a late sleeper, and I would walk a mile, sometimes two miles, and 
in these walks I poured forth my griefs to myself, and often wept. 

" I was not particularly dissatisfied with teaching school. But the 
place was new; the people all strangers; I had just left such pleasant 
scenes. The spirit, like a city cut off from its supply of water, was dying 
of thirst. The soul seemed to wither and die within me. " 

Further on the letter continues : 

" Moreover, this did not seem to be my mission. Something had all 
the time pointed to other duties and another destiny. I was where I was, 
and what I was, simply for the want of money. . . . The power of 
money I felt much more in its want, I doubt not, than any one ever did 
in its possession, even when it shields crime, browbeats innocence, op 
presses the weak, covers ignorance, and cloaks a multitude of iniquities. 
We seldom think of the power of the atmosphere over us, of its essential 
vital qualities. But let it be removed or attenuated ; let the supply be 
cut off or diminished, and how quick its all-powerful energies for our 
behalf will be brought to the mind! I was, as it were, in an exhausted 
receiver, and felt the essential need of money to vitalize my energies and 
aspirations. What a change did I think would be wrought in my prospects, 
had I but one thousand dollars, or even five hundred ! And this amount 
I knew to be wasted in a pleasure-party on a tour to the Springs, and 
that, too, by one of my old classmates, one who was always kind and 
friendly to me, and who called to see me on his return, and mentioned what 
his jaunt had cost him. Little did he know my feelings at the relation. 
They were those of a destitute child, almost starving, yet too proud to beg 
or steal, seeing the remainder of a sumptuous dinner thrown to swine. 

"This is only part of what made me wretched. I cannot tell all the 
reasons why I was so, because I do not know them myself. Our happi 
ness, I have since learned, depends much more upon ourselves than upon 



68 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

the external world. A man may make of himself, and in himself, a 
heaven or hell. "... 

" Teaching, as I have said, was not in itself distasteful to me, except 
the monotony of the repetition. On the contrary, I grew deeply interested 
in it, and buried myself and all my troubles in the school-room. On my 
return from my customary early walk, I breakfasted with Lewis, and 
then we walked together to the academy, generally taking a rather round 
about way. The weather w r as warm, the days long ; we opened school 
early and dismissed late, allowing two hours intermission at noon. The 
hour at which attendance was required was 8 A.M.. and at 5.30 P.M. any 
might go who wished ; but we usually began much earlier, and remained 
until near sunset. Some young men from the country, who seemed 
intent on study, would stay late, and we devoted ourselves to them. The 
school, when I went there, had more than fifty scholars of both sexes, 
which were divided between us about equally, and without reference to 
age or advancement. Some of my scholars were grown-up, and some 
quite small. Some were in Latin and Greek, preparing for the Sophomore 
class, half advanced in college, and some just learning the alphabet ; and 
it was the same way in Lewis s department. Each of us had his own 
department, under his exclusive control. 

" Lewis was a good scholar, and had been teaching for several years. 
I had known him a year or two from his visits to Athens, where he had 
graduated in 1826. He was a North Carolinian by birth, a kind-hearted 
man, well liked, but had no discipline in his school. There were at that 
time in the town a number of rude, bad boys, sons of men of wealth, who 
had been spoiled by indulgence at home and at school. I discovered the 
state of things at a glance, and on the day that I commenced Monday I 
announced to those at my end of the building the rules that were to be 
observed there. They were concise and systematic, and I stated that they 
would be rigidly enforced. There was to be no talking, whispering, or 
moving about during study-hours. The little fellows might go out when 
they pleased, but must make no noise. Those in arithmetic might study 
out-of-doors, if they wished ; but none of the rest were to go out without 
permission. There were only four of the little fellows four-year-olds 
that were allowed to come and go as they pleased. " 

The letter then proceeds to give an account of the insubordi 
nation of one or two of the larger pupils, who had determined 
to test the nerve and determination of the new, boyish-looking 
teacher. They were fully grown, muscular young men ; but 
without a moment s hesitation the rod was applied with severity 
until they yielded. The affair created considerable stir. One 
of these youths was the nephew of a leading citizen, and Lewis 
expressed apprehension lest the school should be injured. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 69 

This, however, was not the case, as Mr. Stephens assured him. 
The popularity of the school was increased ; and " only once 
after that time," Mr. Stephens writes, "did I have to use the 
rod at all, and then not severely. Seldom after that was there 
even necessity for reproof." 

" In after-life I have often met my old scholars. David A. Vason,* of 
Dougherty County, I prepared for college ; also his brother, the doctor, 
in Alabama. 

" I left Madison with a good impression of the people toward me, who 
knew not how miserable I was while I was there. My health was not 
good; before I left college I had become dyspeptic, and was subject to 
severe nervous headaches, which increased greatly in severity while I was 
at Madison. My long walks, I am now convinced, were injurious to me. 
Before the expiration of the term I had, through my old classmate and 
room-mate, William Le Conte, made arrangements to teach a private school 
for his father the next year. The trustees at Madison wished to retain 
me, but I told them of my engagement, and we parted in friendship and 
with good feelings on both sides. I shal^ never forget the day I left the 
town, that house, that office, and Lewis. Nor shall I forget the night 
after this parting. My brother, Aaron Grier, came for me in a buggy, 
and we drove all the way to Crawfordville. I had a terrible headache, 
a most horrible headache! " 

And thus ends the account of these unhappy four months, 
during which both his head and heart ached, not only from the 
causes he mentioned, but from others, far deeper, which he does 
not care to set down. One little episode, not noted here, nor 
even told by him until near forty years after its occurrence, we 
may briefly advert to. One of the pupils at this school was a 
young girl, lovely both in person and character, from whom the 
young teacher learned more than is to be found in books, and 
whom he grew to love with a depth of affection all the greater that 
it was condemned to hopelessness and silence. The poor student, 
with no prospect of worldly advancement, the invalid who looked 
forward to an early death, must not think of marrying, must not 
speak of love. And he never spoke of it to her nor to any, 
never until a generation had passed, and then but to one friend. 
So he leaves the place, and travels all night, with such thoughts 
as we can imagine, and " a most horrible headache !" 

* Hon. David A. Yason, afterwards Judge of S. "W. Circuit. 



CHAPTEE VII. 

A Private Class Mr. Le Conte A Liberal Offer declined Goes to Craw- 
fordville and begins to study for the Bar Hard Work A Damper 
Journal An Anniversary Begins to study Politics President Jackson 
and tbe Bank Despondency First Fee offered and declined Height, 
Weight, and Personal Appearance. 

FROM Madison Mr. Stephens went to Liberty County, to 
fulfil the engagement made through his former room-mate, 
William Le Conte. The agreement was, to teach the children 
of Dr. Le Conte and those of Mr. Varnadoe, one of the neigh 
bors, thirteen pupils in all, for a salary of five hundred dollars. 
Other children from the neighborhood, whose parents were too 
poor to pay, were taken into the school, and taught without 
payment on their part, or any increase of remuneration to the 
teacher. His time here was far more pleasant than that spent 
in Madison. As the sole master of a small school, the pupils 
of which were the children of parents who, whatever their for 
tunes, were well-bred and used to all the courtesies and kind 
nesses of social life, a characteristic of the people of that 
county, himself a welcome guest and soon an intimate in 
their families, he was free from the annoyances and vexations 
unavoidable with a large school involving such various and 
unpleasant elements as did that at Madison. The society of 
Dr. Le Conte, especially, was not only congenial, but helpful to 
him; and he felt that his intellectual growth was taking a new 
start. This gentleman was a man of far more than common 
ability and culture. Mr. Stephens, in after-life, used to refer 
to him with the warmest remembrance, and frequently spoke of 
him as the most learned and intellectual man whom he had ever 
met. He was the father of those distinguished men, Professors 
John and Joseph Le Conte.* 

* Now of the University of California. 
70 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 71 

At this school the most agreeable relations existed between 
teacher, pupils, and patrons. So satisfactory were his services 
found, that an offer of fifteen hundred dollars 7 salary was made 
to induce Mr. Stephens to remain for another year ; but he de 
clined. His reasons for so doing are thus referred to in one of 
his letters : 

" My health had failed. A sedentary life did not suit me. Moreover, I 
had saved a little money, enough to start with. Oh, what a relief it would 
have been to me, what pains and agonies of spirit it would have saved me, 
if I could but have had in hand when I left college the amount I had at 
this end of toil ! A little aid at the right time is worth thousands when 
it is not needed. " 

" Mr. Giles" was very anxious to obtain, through the agency 
of " Mr. Finkle," some further details on the subject of these 
school -keeping days. But about the time of his writing, Mr. 
Stephens was preparing to attend the meeting of Congress at 
Richmond, and in addition to this, the increasing difficulties of 
public affairs absorbed all his attention. His health grew worse 
than usual, so as finally to prevent his journey to Richmond. 
Only one more of the Finkle letters was received, which was 
written on January 21st, 1864, and as it refers entirely to cur 
rent events, it will be reserved for introduction in its proper 
place. 

At the opening of the year 1834, being then twenty-two 
years old, Mr. Stephens resolved to give up teaching altogether, 
and returned to the up-country to begin his studies for the bar. 
Mr. Gray A. Chandler, a brother of the Hon. Daniel Chandler, 
was at that time in successful practice in the adjoining county of 
Warren, and proposed to Mr. Stephens to read law in his office 
and under his guidance, without charge. But trusting to find 
in travel some improvement of his health, he took a journey on 
horseback in the western part of the State, and after spending 
three months in exercise and recreation of this kind, he con 
cluded to return to his own neighborhood, purchase the neces 
sary text-books, and pursue his studies alone. 

The new county of Taliaferro had but a few years before been 
laid off from parts of the adjoining counties of Wilkes, Warren, 
Hancock, Greene, and Oglethorpe. The county seat was located 



72 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

within two miles of his birthplace, and named Crawfordville in 
honor of the distinguished statesman, William H. Crawford. To 
this little town, destined never to advance much in growth after 
the first four or five years, this restless spirit repaired, with the 
desire to make it his permanent home. The Rev. Williamson 
Bird, a Methodist minister, and brother-in-law of Mr. Stephens s 
step-mother, was then the owner and occupant of the house now 
Mr. Stephens s residence. With this gentleman he resided, ob 
tained one of the upper rooms of the court-house for his office, 
and entered upon his new work. He remembered the singularly 
short time which he had required for his preparation for college, 
and seeing the pressing necessity that he should find some remu 
nerative employment as soon as possible, he determined to make 
an effort to obtain admission to practice at the next succeeding 
term of the court, which would be in July. Three months would 
seem but a short period for a sickly young man, without a teacher, 
to prepare himself for the practice of the law ; but he had nei 
ther time nor money to spare, so he resolved to see what could 
be done. 

So here he began his studies ; spending the day in his room 
at the court-house, the night at Mr. Bird s, and recreating 
himself now and then by an evening walk to a neighbor s, 
or going home with the children of his cousin, Mrs. Sabrina 
Ray, as they returned from school, spending the night at her 
house, and walking back the next day. He had no familiar 
friend with whom he could hold converse in the hours of re 
laxation, when the overburdened heart and brain felt such sore 
need of one to whom their hopes, fears, and griefs might be 
confided, and who could breathe a word of sympathy, if not of 
encouragement. For such a friend he longed, but as he had 
none such, he makes his journal his confidant, the journal of 
which we spoke in a previous chapter, and the introduction of 
which we gave. 

About a dozen pages of this volume are devoted to a concise 
account of his previous history, coming down to the 1st of May. 
The next entry is as follows : 

" May 2d. The morning of this day I employed profitably on the 10th, 
llth, 12th, 13th, and 14th chapters of the 4th vol. of Blackstone. In the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 73 

evening I did nothing, on account of having company, but read newspapers 
(for which, by the way, I have a passionate fondness), and conversed on 
various topics. My feelings and hopes seein ever to be vibrating and va 
cillating between assurance and despondency. My soul is bent upon suc 
cess in my profession, and when indulging in brightest anticipations, the 
most trivial circumstance is frequently sufficient to damp my whole ardor 
and drive me to despair. This remark is founded on experience. The 
other day, as I was coining from my boarding-house in a cheerful, brisk 
walk, in high spirits, I was instantly laid low in the dust by hearing the 
superintendent of a shoe-shop ask one of his workmen, Who is that little 
fellow that walks so fast by here every day ? with the reply, in a sarcastic 
tone, Why, that s a lawyer / " 

We may laugh at this now, and so can he, but it was a bitter 
jest to him then. His youthful appearance at this time was 
surprising. Mr. Johnston, who was then a child, saw him for 
the first time in the previous year, and supposing him to be a boy 
of fourteen or fifteen, was astonished to learn that he w r as an 
adult man. His form was the most slight and slender he has 
ever seen ; his thin chestnut hair was brushed aw r ay from a white 
brow and bloodless cheeks. He was leaning upon an umbrella. 
The child who looked at him felt sorry for another child, as he 
supposed, who had suffered from long and painful illness, for he 
bore in his face and form the looks and \veary wear of prolonged 
suffering. The shoemaker s man had been taking his observa 
tions in another spirit. Himself, probably, without ambition, 
or any aspirations beyond his bench and last, he did not approve 
of people aiming to rise above their fellows or their fortunes ; 
and when this " little fellow," without sign or prospect of beard, 
on days when those like him were at school or dropping corn 
after the plough, came by his window, walking cheerfully and 
briskly to his office, he puts what sarcasm he can into words, 
and sneers, "Why, that s a lawyer!" It reaches the "little fel 
low s 7 ears (though probably not meant to do so), and wounds as 
rudeness, coarseness, and scorn always wound the young and the 
sensitive who have not learned to allow for character and motive. 
He has no strength to parry this awkward thrust of the shoe 
maker s man. Indeed, the man may judge him rightly, and 
may be a prophet in the evidently low opinion he has of the 
young lawyer s chances of success. His voice may be the im- 



74 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

partial verdict of society, which politeness hitherto has kept 
from reaching his ears. It is not merely the disapprobation of 
a journeyman shoemaker that " lays him low in the dust." 
We take the next entry in the journal : 

li May 3d, Saturday. This day brother came to see me. In the evening 
we walked down to Mr. Brown s school-house, two miles distant, to attend 
the meeting of a debating society. Question for discussion : Which en 
joys the more happiness, a farmer or a merchant? I took some part in 
the debate. Spent the night with Major Guise. During the night there 
was a great fall of rain. However, we set out from his house after break 
fast for Crawfordville, but finding the creek full, we had to wind and trapse 
about through the wet leaves and muddy ground before finding any log 
upon which we could cross. At this time my feelings were at a low ebb. 
It being Sunday, cloudy and rainy, and I wandering about on foot, with 
an old umbrella, trying to cross a creek! How ashamed I should have 
felt had I met one of my Athenian friends ! What conscious remorse I 
felt at my lowered situation ! But my motto is, Cedendum est fato. He 
that exalteth himself shall be abased. The world must be taken as it 
comes and made the best of, as all other bad bargains. May be it . . . " 

The following page, with the conclusion of this sentence, and 
the next page after, were torn out by the author before handing 
over the journal to the present writer. The next entry is this : 

11 May 7th. This is the eighth anniversary of my father s death. The 
day never returns in each revolving year without bringing to my mind 
many sad reflections. I easily read the scenes, the griefs, the woes of 
which I keep it in commemoration. But alas ! the course of time is 
onward. And though at each return of the 7th of May I may seem as 
if moving in a circular motion, to be nearer the point and period of that 
memorable event than at other seasons of the year, yet this is only a 
delusion providentially afforded to soothe the soul with the pleasing hope 
of paying an annual visit to the shades of affliction and the place of be 
reavement. This day I finished the review of Blackstone s Commentaries. 
Spent part of the evening with Dr. Mercer, who called on me. We ex 
amined some minerals he has. I was upon the whole well pleased with 
him. I shall cultivate his acquaintance." 

This acquaintance was marred not long afterwards by a mis 
understanding, which produced at last a serious quarrel with Dr. 
Mercer and his friends. It originated from a subject mentioned 
in the next entry. 

" May 8th. . . . Have to-day read Jackson s Protest to the United States 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 75 

Senate.* Am pleased with it in general, but think he was not particular 
enough in the selection of words and the use of terms. I do not think, 
from reading all the parts together, that he meant what some detached 
sentences would legitimately import. His supplementary message I dis 
approve, because, in the first place, it was unnecessary secondly, as an 
explanation it comes, in my estimation, far short of effecting anything. 
It is more like a recantation than an explanation ; and by superficial ob 
servers and by partisan editors it will, I have no doubt, be thus pronounced. 
While all that was necessary to satisfy the most wavering was an explana 
tion of the particular sense in which he had used the words custody, law, 
executive department, etc., together with some other words and sentences. 
For niy own part, I feel interested for General Jackson now. I see the most 
formidable, unprecedented, and vile attempts made to oppose his measures, 
entangle his administration, and, if possible, to fix upon him infamy and 
disgrace. The principles of his Proclamation of December, 1832, I de 
cidedly condemn. But it is human to err; and for one error a man who 
has always stood high and done much good for his country should not be 
abandoned. For where we shall find a President who will commit only 
one wrong, we shall find few who will not commit more. Concerning the 
deposits question, I think the President acted precipitately. He should 
have awaited the session of Congress ; but as he chose a different course, 
he should nevertheless be sustained, since I am convinced the course he 
did take was constitutional. The bank is a dangerous institution : Jackson 
has it now by the neck, and if he is let alone he will soon choke the rep 
tile to death. I care not how soon it is done, for if it ever escapes nothing 
valuable and nothing sacred will be out of the reach of its venom." 

" May llth. This day I spent in writing letters, until noon, and after 
wards in reading. Drew for the first time an attachment bond. More 
business seems to be brewing than for some time past. Several inquiries 
concerning law-points have been made to-day ; and I very much wish I 
was in the practice, able to give advice, and that there was room for as 
much as I could give." 

The entry of the next day shows his fit of despondency 
returning. 

* The removal of the public deposits from the Bank of the United States 
and their transfer to certain State banks by President Jackson was a 
measure which, on account of both its financial and political bearings, 
created great excitement throughout the country, and placed the President 
in direct opposition to the Senate, in which body the great statesmen, Cal- 
houn, Clay, and Webster, for the first time were united in their antagonism 
to the administration. The Senate passed a resolution of censure on the 
President, and the latter replied by the Protest referred to in the text. The 
resolution of censure was finally expunged from the journal of the Senate 
by order of that body. 



76 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

li May 12th. Have been reading to-day, but slowly. Crawfordville is 
a dry place. I do not feel satisfied. I have a restlessness of spirit and 
ambition of soul which are urging me on, and I feel that I am not in a 
situation to favor this inward flame. My desires do not stop short of the 
highest places of distinction. And yet how can I effect my purpose? . . . 
Poor and without friends, no prospect of increasing my means, time 
passing with rapid flight, and 1 effecting nothing ! Day is succeeding day, 
and I do nothing but ponder over a few pages of my law, and mix with 
kind-hearted but uninformed people, who know very little themselves and 
can impart little or nothing to others ! Oh, that I were able ! I would seek 
society congenial to my feelings ; I would converse with those who could 
entertain and instruct.. Such once was my situation, but that day is gone, 
and its remembrance chokes my utterance !" 

Our young student on this 12th day of May is evidently out 
of sorts, both in mind and body. He even makes a disparag 
ing allusion to Crawfordville, as harmless a little village as may 
be found. He wants money to get away from it, and thinks 
that if he had but money he would soon be on his way to more 
congenial society. We shall see in good time what modifications 
these opinions of his underwent. 

" May 13th. Read all the law I could find relative to the case of J. 
Brooker, who has absconded and left many debts unsettled. I find great 
difficulty and am now greatly bewildered with perplexity. I wish I had 
somebody always at my elbow to solve all my doubts and difficulties, and 
answer my questions. I should then have some hopes of .final success. I 
was consulted the other day on a legal point, for the first time, and, most 
miserable to remember, counselled erroneously 1" 

The entry following is less tragic : 

" May 14th. Nothing particular. A belled buzzard passed through the 
neighborhood, quite to the astonishment of the natives." 

" May 15th. Read Chitty, Ma.ddox, Blackstone, etc. In the afternoon 
assisted in copying some attachments vs. John Brooker for some persons 
from Washington, but the whole proceedings seemed to me an inexplicable 
maze. I was for the first time offered pay for my legal services, but very 
gentlemanly refused !" 

Much as he wants money he will not take it until he is legally 
entitled to charge for his services. Yet he cannot refrain from 
a little touch of sarcasm at himself for not yet having won the 
right to charge a fee. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 77 

" May 17th. Brother is still with me. Have done nothing for the last 
two days. Had an introduction to a man to-day who addressed me famil 
iarly as my son. Such has often happened to me. Last fall, when I 
was in Savannah, I was asked by a youngster-candidate for the Freshman 
class if I were going to college, and I was more amused at the joke than 
surprised at the question, considering that my appearance is much more 
youthful than that of most young men of twenty-one. My weight is 
ninety-four pounds, my height sixty-seven inches, my waist twenty inches 
in circumference, and my whole appearance that of a youth of seventeen 
or eighteen. When I left college, two years ago, my net weight was 
seventy pounds. If I continue in a proportionate increase I shall reach 
one hundred in about two years more." 

" May 18th. This is Sunday. Last night I and brother spent at Thomas 
Ray s. This morning was beautiful. The air was calm, clear, and serene ; 
the sun shone warm and joyously. Brother and myself and Thomas ram 
bled over the scenes of my early days, visited Father s grave, saw all the 
haunts of my boyhood, the fields in which I have labored, the trees I have 
planted, the rocks I have piled, the hedges in which I have reclined. 
Thought much of the past, of which I can here give no utterance." 

Thus we find him working round to a healthier frame of 
mind. The two days visit from his brother, their joint visit to 
their cousin Sabrina Ray, the walk in that sweet morning to the 
grave, the memories brought back by all those familiar scenes, 
have brought feelings at once sad and consoling, and thoughts, 
not altogether painful, but to which he will not give utterance. 
And so we find him passing through the ordeal through which 
so many young men of noble feelings and high aspirations have 
to pass at their first contact with the stern realities of life. 
This it is which tries their natures, as in a furnace, and proves 
the metal of which they are made. Few have suffered more in 
this trial than he ; still fewer have come through it with purity 
undefiled, honor untarnished, and principles unshaken. 



CHAPTEE VIII. 

Journal Youthful Judgments Forebodings ^Esthetic Criticisms Opin 
ion of Railroads Solitude First Plea Self-censure Ambition A Crit 
ical Period Out of the Depths Dr. Foster and his Prescription Moves 
to Uncle Bird s A Shock to Modesty A Narrow Escape A Fourth of 
July Speech Adhesion to the Doctrine of State Eights Eight of Seces 
sion Admission to the Bar. 

WE still continue from the journal, as at this period the 
record of his thoughts and feelings which he confides to its 
pages has more interest for us than external incident. 

11 May 19th. Brother left me this morning. I am quite unwell. In 
ferior Court sat ; no business. One case only, and it dismissed. Starvation 
to the whole race of lawyers ! Read a little in Chitty, and did nothing as 
usual." 

Rather discouraging to the young student, this. Though not 
affecting him directly, his prophetic vision descries in it the har 
binger of coming woe, of a time when man shall cease to plead 
or be irnpleaded ; when crimes and torts and breaches of contract 
shall be things of the past; when the craft of the lawyer shall 
be no longer in demand, and he himself shall perish of inani 
tion. Let him take courage ; the millennium is not so near. 

On May 22d he goes with Dr. Mercer looking for minerals, 
and returns home fatigued and worried, with self-reproach for 
wasted time. The day s entry closes thus : 

"... I propose reading to-night to make up some of my lost time. I 
am sometimes almost fretted with myself when the day begins to close in 
upon me and I find I have done nothing. Such are my feelings now. 
Time is precious : I know it ; and yet it seems impossible for me to 
improve it." 

The next day we find his mental irritation and disgust venting 
itself on external things. He has not yet learned how much the 

world without us takes its coloring from our own eye ; and how, 

78 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 79 

when our life is bitter to us, we discover hatefulness in almost 
everything : 

" May 23d. I do detest vulgarity. Sometimes I almost have a contempt 
for the whole human race, the whole appearing like a degenerate herd, 
beneath the notice of a rational, intellectual being. Sensuality is the 
moving principle of mankind, and the most brutish are the most hon 
ored. I long for a less polluted atmosphere. Of all things to me, an 
obscene fool is the most intolerable ; yet such I am compelled to mix 
with daily. Will I never find one whose company will please me? No ; 
of this I despair. I have once been so fortunate, but never expect to be 
again. My notion of merit is what is intellectual in its nature. I honor 
and long to be associated with the mind that soars above the infirmities 
and corruptions of human nature ; that is far out of the region of passion 
and prejudice ; that lives and moves and has its being in the pure element 
of Truth. But how revolting, how sickening to my feelings, how dis 
gusting, how killing to my soul, to see beings bearing the majestic form 
of Man, possessing speech, reason, and all the faculties of an immortal 
mind, hopping and skipping all night to an old screaking fiddle like 
drunken apes, or lounging about a grog-shop from morn to eve, or wallow 
ing, swine-like, in the mud and mire! judgment, thou art fled to 
brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason ! But my feelings are 
taking me too far. The error is in nature ; it must be pitied, not blamed. 
Perhaps I may appear as objectionable and as odious to others as others 
to me. But I do wonder if this poor world is thus always to remain! 
If low, degraded, selfish, lascivious, foolish, besottedly foolish men are 
always to figure most conspicuously here in it, or if there is any ground 
on which to rest the consolation of a hope for better things to come ? Sed 
satis ml melior." 

Perhaps after this good long scold he feels some relief. He 
has been slow in discovering the amount of vulgarity, sensuality, 
and folly there is in the world, and the discovery shocks him 
all the more, coming, as it does, when his principles are formed 
but his judgment still immature, and before he has learned that 
wise optimism that tries to find the soul of goodness even in 
things evil. To him, sitting at his window up in the court 
house, and looking down upon the public square, the faults and 
follies of these poor Crawford villians are obvious enough ; what 
good may be in them he does not see. Shrinking, like a woman, 
from all grossness, his offended nature protests indignantly, yet 
he checks himself, remembering that others may be passing 
rash judgments on him. 



80 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

"May %6t~h. Did nothing to-day. Played chess in the morning. Got 
some notes to collect for the first time ; find it a miserable business col 
lecting money. Have a headache ; but withal have this evening been 
pleased looking at the constant lightning in the east. I like, of a summer 
eve, when darkness prevails, to get to my window, and look upon the 
broad bosom of a cloud lighted up with successive coruscations of elec 
tricity. As I sit and behold one blaze begin and run from one extremity 
of the horizon to the other, and then disappear, leaving all in darkness, to 
be instantly followed by another on the same arena, my thoughts turn to 
the life of man and the history of nations. A burning genius bursts forth 
in the darkness of surrounding ignorance, and shines afar, but soon ex 
pires and sinks to nought, leaving darkness in his train. One nation, for 
the moment of a few short years, as our little republic is doing now, may 
prosper and flourish ; but it is like the flash of the lightning, sublime in 
its passage, yet hastening to its end." 

How much of this gloomy vaticination is a mere externalizing 
jof his personal discontent, and how much is a deduction from 
his studies of the political history of the country, we cannot now 
see. No man has shown more clearly than Mr. Stephens in 
liis later writings has done that the seeds of dissension lay in 
the Union from its very formation, and that with the increase 
of population, the strengthening of parties, the enhancement of 
the prizes at stake, and the irritation of reiterated and aggra 
vated grievances, a catastrophe was sooner or later inevitable, 
unless it had pleased Providence to give the people more wisdom 
and the statesmen more patriotism than commonly fall to the 
lot of republics. 

In the next entry we are surprised to find our cloistered and 
brooding student passing a judgment upon female beauty and 
female costume. 

" Nay 30th. . . . Have read little or nothing, spending the day very 
unprofitably in chit-chat on various subjects. Examined some drawings 
representing the ancient statues, the Apollo Belvidere, Venus de Medici, 
the Gladiator, Antinous, etc. With the Gladiator and Yenus I am de 
lighted 5 the muscular energy of the one, and the luxurious grace of the 
other, stand unrivalled in any specimens I have yet seen in nature or 
art. I think it a pity, but some of our fashionable belles should take a 
lesson from this elegant form of true grace. If they could, I am persuaded 
that they would change their present disgusting waspish taste, and adapt 
their conformation to the lines and curves of natural beauty." 

"June %d. It appears impossible for me to study. I supposed when I 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 81 

got this room that I should be by myself, retired from all noise and 
all company, and have an undisturbed time for reading, writing, musing, 
or doing anything else my inclination might lead to ; but to my great 
disappointment and mortification, I am sometimes interrupted from morn 
till night, and do nothing the livelong day but jabber with each transient 
interloper who may be disposed to give me a call. I seem to be consti 
tutionally unfortunate in this respect. When in college I was always 
pestered more with company and interruptions by incomers than any one 
-student of my acquaintance. Frequently my chums have left the room 
to me and my company, as they would tell me in private, and sought 
retreat in some adjoining cloister to prepare their recitations, while I, as 
Horace on his walk to the gardens of Cassar, could have breathed a fervent 
prayer to Apollo or any other divinity for aid in obtaining a similar release." 

The next clay s entry reads strangely enough now, when the 
subject therein touched upon as* something new and strange has 
become familiar to every one, and connected with the interests 
of every one. It is interesting to see with what caution Mr. 
Stephens speaks of a project which he soon afterwards fully in 
vestigated, and of which he was to be an eloquent champion. 
This was the project of building a railway from Augusta to 
some point in the interior of the State. An intelligent advocate 
of the scheme was Dr. Thomas Foster, who then resided in 
Crawford ville, which village, by the way, has the distinction of 
being the place where, owing to the influence of Dr. Foster, Hon. 
Mark A. Cooper, and others, it was first resolved to call a con 
vention upon the subject. This, however, was some time after 
the period now under consideration. 

" June 3d. The railroad is the topic of the day. Some think it will be 
a profitable investment of capital ; others fear to run the risks with their 
own pockets ; while all seem very anxious that it may be effected by some 
means or other. For my own part, I must confess that my opportunities 
of gaining information on the subject have been so limited, and my judg 
ment on such matters is so immature, that I cannot say I have any decided 
opinion on the great question of interest. If, however, my premises are 
correct, I think the legitimate conclusion must inevitably follow in favor 
of the project. Railroads, it is true, are novel things in the history of 
man : and as yet so little experience has been had on their practicability 
as leaves the whole subject somewhat a matter of hazard. In my estima 
tion, the greatest obstacle is the greatness of the enterprise. The stupen 
dous thought of seeing steam-engines moving over our hills with the safe 
and rapid flight of fifteen miles an hour, produces a greater effect in the 

6 



82 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

dissuasion of the undertaking than any discovered defect in the chain of 
arguments in its favor. Speed to the work. Ripe apples to-day for the 
first." 

The whole subject is so vast and so novel that he scarcely 
knows what to think. The idea of driving engines by steam 
over hills, at the dizzy speed of fifteen miles an hour, is some 
thing with which the mind finds it hard to grapple. It is a 
relief to turn from these strange devices of impatient man to 
the quiet operations of nature, that never hastes and never rests, 
but brings forth leaf, flower, and fruit in due season, and enables 
him to note on this 3d of June, " Ripe apples to-day for the 
first. " 

"June 6th. I do wish I had an associate, a bosom confidant, an equal 
in every degree, neither above nor below, whose tastes and views were 
similar to my own, and whose business and pursuits were the same as 
mine. With such an one I could live and learn and be happy. But as it 
is, I sit in my room from morn till night, nor see nor converse with any 
body of like tastes with myself. I try to read and advance in information, 
but having no person to converse with, to create interest, or elicit new 
thought upon the subject-matter of my studies, I find that I am not only 
failing to gather up new stores, but even permitting former ones to es 
cape. ... I have this day read in the Southern Recorder (the only paper 
I take, and devoted to State-rights) a chapter on cats, with which I was 
pleased, and which I hope long to remember." 

His lonely brooding and want of companionship make him 
fancy his gloom deeper than it really is. Having exhausted the 
political articles in his paper, and perhaps confirmed his opinion 
of the impending ruin of the country, a bit of harmless pleas 
antly, even about cats, cheers him up. He is grateful for the 
relief, and hopes long to remember it. But the next day he 
complains again. 

" June 7th. I have done nothing to-day but saunter about, loll on the 
bed, and chat foolishness. When will my days of folly pass and I be 
what I wish to be ? This day I for the first time drew a plea in answer to 
a process, etc. It was for a Mr. James Brooker, sued in the Justice Court. 
I was under considerable embarrassment ; however, finally succeeded ; but 
at this time have a most contemptuous opinion of myself. I believe I shall 
never be worth anything, and the thought is death to my soul. I am too 
boyish, childish, unmanful, trifling, simple in my manners and address. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II . STEPHENS. 33 

I must commence anew. Lethargy is my fatal fault. I am like the kite : 
I soar only in the rage of the gale. In the calm I sink into inactivity. I 
am like the flint which emits no spark unless brought into contact with 
something almost as hard as itself. I was made to figure in a storm, ex 
cited by continual collisions. Discussion and argument are my delight ; 
and a place of life and business therefore is my proper element. Craw- 
fordville is too dull. I long to be where I shall have an argument daily." 
" June 8th, Sunday. In my room all day. 11 

Want of suitable companionship, and this continual brooding 
over his isolation and his helplessness, are enervating him. He 
doubts himself. Xot long ago he was writing, " Quid non cffe- 
cero f now he " believes he shall never be worth anything," 
and the languor is creeping over body as well as mind. A spell 
like that of Vivien s is weaving around him, and while to others 
he seems free, he feels himself shut 

"Within the four walls of a hollow tower 
From which is no escape for evermore." 

Better had he gone once more to the old place to-day, and re 
visited the scenes, re-awakened the memories, of his childhood. 

" June 9th, Monday. I to-day feel the ragings of ambition like the sud 
den burst of the long smothered flames of a volcano. My soul is disquieted 
within me, and there is an aching, aspiring thirst which is as indescribable 
as insatiable. I must be the most restless, miserable, ambitious soul that 
ever lived. I can liken myself to nothing more appropriately than to a 
being thrown into vacant space, gasping for air, finding nothing but emp 
tiness, but denied to die. These are my intolerable feelings." 

" June 10th. The weather continues very warm ; and whether it be the 
effect of external circumstances, or but one among other constitutional de 
fects, I cannot tell, but I do have too contemptuous an opinion of this 
world to be entitled to the privilege of a resident. And were there any 
safe known passage to another, I should soon be making preparation for 
an exit, trusting to the probability of its being a better." 

It was a fierce ordeal through which our young student was 
passing in those bright summer days. Close confinement in his 
chamber, isolation, friendlessness, poverty ; the knowledge that 
he was risking all not merely his hopes of future prosperity, 
but even his daily bread upon the hazard of professional suc 
cess : all these sicken both mind and body. The overstrained 
nerves demand rest, and he then bitterly reproaches himself with 



84 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

having wasted a precious, irrecoverable day; the dulled brain 
refuses to follow the intricate thread of legal argument, and he 
calls it lethargy, and despairs of himself. To the pages of his 
journal he confides the cravings of his ambition, and his anguish 
at its utter hopelessness. Once he felt that, had he but a chance, 
he could achieve distinction ; now, with death in his soul, he 
declares that hope a delusion, nay, he despises himself for 
having cherished it. Few men, with unburdened consciences, 
have sounded lower depths of wretchedness than this. He 
breaks forth in anger against a world that seems to him all out 
of joint ; and then, with bitter self-denunciation, admits that 
the fault, the incongruity, the incompatibility, may lie at his 
door alone. He has not yet learned to read, even most imper 
fectly, the two great riddles, the world and his own heart. Suf 
ferings of body accompany the sufferings of mind ; and to nerves 
thus tortured into over-sensitiveness everything gives pain. 
Headaches, the black fiend dyspepsia, torment him by night and 
by day ; the hearing of ribaldry and blasphemy, the sight of 
drunkenness and profligacy, assail a spirit cast in the most deli 
cate mould ; and these assaults he can neither repel nor escape. 
He can do nothing to reform men that look upon him half- 
contemptuously as a crotchety boy; he can do nothing to 
strengthen a body that has been frail and sickly from the very 
birth. He was in greater peril in these days than even he 
knew. Men of natures akin to his have been brought by trials 
of this kind to madness, or been relieved by merciful death, or 
sought a desperate refuge in self-destruction. Let no one say that 
the position of a poor, friendless student is no such uncommon 
one ; that his straits were not so extreme : he was not starving, he 
was not in rags, he was not an outcast from men s good opinions, 
nor from society. The tragedy is not in the circumstances, but 
in the actor; and we must judge of his sufferings by looking 
at his position as he saw it ; not as it looks to us from with 
out. It was in a frame of mind somewhat like his that Chat- 
terton, weary and with a breaking heart, wandered about Lon 
don, when the few who could and would have helped him were 
away. The boy-poet of Bristol had one torment that was spared 
our friend, the torment of a conscience, not at rest ; but he 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 5 

was also supported by a belief in his own genius, while young 
Stephens, as we have seen, had lost confidence in himself. For 
tunate was it for the latter that the solitude of the little village, 
that he found so small and dull, was not like the solitude of the 
vast city. 

This has been a sad and gloomy chapter of his life; but to 
the student of the human heart it is one of the most interesting, 
containing as it does that faithful record, meant for no eye but 
his own, of the inmost thoughts of his soul. From depth to 
depth he has descended, until he has reached the nadir. One 
step more downward would have been the end of all ; but that 
step was not taken. AVe shall see him again in grief and in 
gloom of spirit ; but never again shall we find him choosing death 
rather than life, and meditating whether there may not be some 
safe passage from this world to another. 

" June 12th. Attended Florence s examination. Was highly amused." 

Florence was a schoolmaster, and an acquaintance, with whom 
he occasionally has had an "argument on grammar," and who 
has, once at least, lent him an " old blind horse" for a ride. 
Who knows but the amusement he felt at the examination of 
these children may not have given the little touch that saved 
him? For he was in a perilous state. No one but he who has 
had the experience can know how the thought of a voluntary 
escape from the wretchedness of life, at first awful, if tampered 
with, grows subtly, almost irresistibly seductive. One touch of 
a finger, and all the burden is thrown off, all pain eased, all 
perils escaped, all forebodings frustrated, all enemies baffled. 
Death lays aside his terrors, and changes from a grisly spectre 
to an angelic form, bearing the balm of forgetfulness and the 
keys of release. 

"June 15th, Sunday. Quarterly meeting. Pretty good sermon by Mr. 
Arnold. Some objectionable points, however. What these were I cannot 
now mention. Perhaps I may on some future day give place in these 
pages to something like an exposition of my faith ; but it must be when I 
have more time than now." 

That exposition never found a place in " these pages," nor in 
any others. The views which a youth of his inexperience would 



8(5 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

take were doubtless too undefined and too wide in range for him 
to find time to express, at least until he could give more time 
to the task. But whatever those views may be, it seems that 
they have not yet pointed out any safe road to another world for 
a man who has grown tired of this. Probably he does not feel 
so tired of this now. At all events, we find him devising means 
for living more comfortably in it, and, for one thing, trying to 
borrow a horse. 

"June 17th. Tried this morning to borrow a horse to go to Uncle 
Grier s on business for Thompson, but was so disappointed as to fill me 
with mortification and a due sense of my humble dependence. Nothing 
hurts me worse than to ask and be refused. Therefore I had rather (and 
have often done it) walk than ask for a horse. I finally got Leary ; S 4 . 
but could not return, on account of a heavy rain in the evening. I recol 
lect that in 1826, on this day, we had a good rain, after a considerable 
drought." 

u June 20th. Read Blackstone in revieAv. Had a visit from Dr. Foster, 
and promised him to deliver an oration on the Fourth of July." 

He has been at last visited by a physician, and a good one. 
This good Dr. Foster has never received a diploma nor entered 
the doors of a medical college, but he is renowned for miles 
around for curing patients and for making money. He has 
been observing our young friend for some time, and seeing the 
treatment he needs, volunteers his services. No visit was ever 
more opportune, no diagnosis more correct, no plan of treatment 
more judicious. He begins by prescribing a Fourth-of-July 
speech, a good prescription. 

His patient began on the speech the very next day ; and, what 
is more, he moved his lodging from the court-house to Uncle 
Bird s, a good move, possibly a suggestion of the doctor s. 

" June 25th. AVent to a party at Mr. John Rogers s. Intolerably warm, 
but time spent very pleasantly. For the first time witnessed the new 
dance," the waltz, presumably, then of recent introduction, " which dis 
gusted me much. Oh, the follies of man, and how foolish are some of his 
ways ! Returned in the evening, with a narrow escape of my life. My 
borrowed horse, a large and spirited animal, seldom used, having stood 
some time in the rain, and having been left by his companions, Upon my 
starting evinced a disposition to run, and I soon found that it would be 
impossible for me to manage him or hold him in. Off he went at full 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER IL STEPHENS. 37 

speed, passed gigs, carriages, and all wheeled vehicles. My umbrella fell, 
then my hat. Away we went, Gilpin-like, over logs and Bullies, hills and 
valleys, for two miles before I could arrest him, when I was so exhausted 
as to be hardly able to dismount. During the whole danger I felt com 
posed, and determined to exert myself to the last to keep the saddle, 
although I was conscious of my perilous situation, and thought of the in- j 
stability of human affairs, and how soon I might be hurried from the \ 
scenes of mirth in which I had just been into eternity. This was a sol- 
emn reflection ; and I have reason to be thankful that a kind Providence 
did not permit this danger to become a fatality." 

The entries of several succeeding days are very short and 
almost illegible, on account of the soreness produced by this un 
common exertion. The preparation of his speech was trouble 
some. He wrote and then destroyed and wrote again, finishing it 
on the 3d, and therefore had to read it. In the entry of the next 
day, while speaking of the recurrence of the celebrations, he says : 

" This natural enthusiasm should not be suppressed. It is only by a 
frequent recurrence to the cost of liberty that it can be truly appreciated. 
When the people become remiss, and cease to watch their rights with a 
jealous eye, then the days of liberty are numbered, for its price is eternal 
vigilance." 

The manuscript of this address is still preserved. Its chief 
theme is the importance to the liberties of the people that the 
rights of the States shall be jealously and firmly maintained; a 
doctrine which has always been a cardinal one with him. His 
friends desired to have this speech published, but this was not 
done until thirty years after. In 1864, in answer to certain 
insinuations that his opposition to the Administration s tenden 
cies toward centralization was not founded on principle, and that 
his advocacy of State-rights was new, he published in pamphlet 
form this early declaration of his political faith. 

In this, his first political speech, Mr. Stephens distinctly took 
the ground from which his convictions never afterwards wavered. 
While denying the asserted right of nullification, that is, tne 
right of a State to remain in the Union and yet disobey the Federal 
Taws, he insisted upon the sovereignty of the States, and the right 
oT any to withdraw from the Union IF the compact should be vio 
lated by others. Though in 1834, as in 1860, he considered this 
step a deplorable necessity and only to be taken as a last resort. 



8^ LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

After showing the relations of the States under the old Arti 
cles of Confederation, he says, referring to the Union : 

"The Government has not even changed its name. Its powers were en 
larged, but its character is the same ; and the relations between the States 
and the Government have been multiplied, but the nature of those rela 
tions is unaltered. The new Constitution is a compact between the 
sovereign States separately, as the old Confederation was ; and if this be 
so, and if the first Article of the Confederation expressly declares that 
sovereignty or supremacy is retained to the States, denying the right or 
power of Congress to coerce or compel the States, the parties to it, to obey 
its edicts, where is this right or power derived under the present Consti 
tution? I am constrained to think that it is derived nowhere, and that it 
has its existence only in the breasts of the parasites of power who wish to 
overthrow the liberties of the people. 

"... That to some may appear a strange doctrine for the perpetuation 
of the Union of the States which allows one part to withdraw when under the 
feeling of oppression. But such err in their opinions on the strength of 
governments. The strength of all governments, and particularly republics, 
is in the affections of the people. A republic is a government of opinion, it 
wavers and vacillates with opinion, the popular breath alone is sufficient to 
extinguish its existence. Such is our Government. It was formed by each 
party entering it for interested purposes: for greater safety, protection, 
and tranquillity ; and so long as these ends are answered, it will be im 
pregnable without and within. Interest and self-preservation are the 
ruling motives of human action, and so long as interest shall induce the 
States to remain united, the Union will have the support and affection of 
the people. A separation need not be feared. ButCw hen ever the General 
Government adopts the principle that it is the supreme power of the land, 
that the States are subordinate, mere provinces, that it can compel and 
enforce, and commences to dispense its favors with a partial hand, to tax 
and oppress a few States to the interest and aggrandizement of the many, 
or otherwise transcend its powers, then will the days of our republic be 
numberedL/For it is false philosophy to suppose that these States can be 
kept together by force. Dangerous elements are not the less to be dreaded 
by a compression of the sphere of their action ; neither are the energies 
of a people by an infringement of their rights. Jit is contrary to all ob 
servation on the conduct and motives of men. JBut let it be the estab- 
| lished policy of the Government that it has no power over a State with- 
1 drawing from the Union when in her deliberate judgment the compact 
has been broken, and the others will soon cease, or rather never begin 
to oppress ; for the Union should be an advantage to all, but an injury to 
none." 

Altogether a rather remarkable speech for a Fourth-of-July 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 11. STEPHENS. 39 

oration, which is usually a synonyme for windy emptiness, 
" spread-eagleism," and sophomorical rhetoric. 

The entries for some days now have little of interest. On 
July 21st he is " very anxious on account of my examination 
to-morrow," and on July 22d he "was this day admitted an 
attorney at law, and released from a great burden of anxiety." 

In reference to this examination we find the following brief 
note in the Finkle correspondence : 

" Toomhs was at the court when I was admitted : I was not introduced 
to him, however. The next week I went over to Wilkes, and there we 
became personally acquainted ; l>ut how I do not recollect. Our acquaint 
ance soon grew to intimacy. We were associated in some cases in 1835 ; 
in 1836 we were very friendly, and by this time always occupied the same 
room when we went on the circuit. In 1838 he proposed to lend me 
money to travel for my health. We had been in the Legislature together 
in 1837. He attended to nearly all the business that my brother could not 
do while I was gone. Our personal relations have never been interrupted 
from the first day of our acquaintance." 

Thus in three months, despite his sufferings of mind and 
body, the interruptions of loungers, and the calls of the clerk 
for assistance, he accomplished, untutored, the round of prepara 
tory studies, and was admitted a member of the bar of the 
Northern circuit. Judge William H. Crawford was then upon 
the bench. Colonel Joseph Henry Lurnpkin, afterwards chief 
justice of the State, was the leading member of the committee 
of examination. After thoroughly testing the proficiency of 
the candidate, he remarked that he was not only thoroughly 
satisfied, but that he had never witnessed a better examination 
since he had been at the bar. Judge Crawford the least flat 
tering, if not the most plain-speaking of men, as much distin 
guished for candor and directness as for other noble qualities 
replied that he had himself never known a better, and warmly 
expressed his gratification. 

And now, his pupilage having passed, and a load of anxiety 
having been lifted from his mind; Lumpkin, Chandler, Cone, 
Dawson, Andrews, and others, leaders in the profession that he 
has adopted, having taken him by the hand and called him 
brother, he may at last feel that he is a man among men, and 
that the veritable business of life has begun. 



CHAPTER IX. 

First Case " Biding the Circuit" First Fee taken Hezekiah Ellington 
A Desperate Strait and a Convincing Argument A " Revival" and the 
Scenes there Increase of Business Buys a Horse An Exciting Case 
A Great Speech and its Effects. 

THE leading lawyer of the county at this time was Mr. 
Swepston C. Jeffries. This gentleman had resolved to remove 
to Columbus, and Mr. Stephens had made arrangements to 
occupy his office for the rest of the year. The evening after 
Mr. Stephens s admission to the bar, Mr. Jeffries proposed to 
him to accompany him to Columbus and become his partner. 
Among other inducements he urged the prospect of large and 
profitable business, which he expected would yield them as 
much as five thousand dollars a year, and he was willing to 
guarantee to Mr. Stephens at least fifteen hundred as his share 
in any event. Stephens asked what Mr. Jeffries thought he 
could make in Crawford ville, and the latter pleasantly replied 
that he would guarantee him. one hundred dollars. Content with 
this outlook, he declined his friend s flattering offer, preferring to 
cast his lot among the scenes and friends that were familiar and 
dear to him. 

On the next day he has the prospect of a case, and w r e find 
the following entry in the journal : 

"July 24th. Was this day engaged for the first time in my professional 
line, with a contingent fee of about one hundred and eighty dollars. May 
a superintendent Providence look propitiously upon me ! The little bark of 
my fortunes and my all is now launched upon a troubled sea, and a better 
helmsman than I am is needed. And now, in the beginning, I do make 
a fervent prayer that He who made me and all things, and who rules all 
things, and who has heretofore abundantly blessed and favored me, and 
to whom I wish to be grateful for all His mercies, may continue them 
toward His unworthy servant ; that He may, though unseen, direct me in 
the right path in all things, and in all my intercourse with mankind : that 
90 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 91 

He may make me unassuming and not bold and self-confident; that He 
may inspire me with a sound mind and quick apprehension, and that He 
may so overrule all my acts and all my thoughts and my whole course 
that a useful success may attend all my efforts ; that I may not be a use 
less blank in creation and an injury to men ; but that I may be of benefit 
yet to my fellow-beings, that His name may be glorified in my existence, 
and most of all that, at least, I may ever be filled with a sense of depend 
ence upon His arm for assistance in all things." 

The next week after his admission the court sat in Wilkes. 
The lawyer must at least make a show of riding the circuit. 
How shall he manage to do so ? The animal that figured in 
his Gil pin -ride suggests too many reflections connected with the 
instability of human affairs and the precarious tenure of human 
life. He could walk to Washington, but that would not be 
"riding the circuit." After due reflection he concludes to walk 
to his uncle s, a distance of about ten miles, carrying his saddle 
bags on his shoulders, and there borrow a horse. Of this walk 
he writes : u Starting about dusk, a long, dreary, lonely, and 
dark walk I had, well calculated to fill me with proper feelings 
of my humble condition, and depress my already low spirits. 
However, I was superior to circumstances, and with more fatigue 
than mental depression, I reached my destined place at eleven 
o clock at night." The horse obtained, the rest of the journey 
was easy; and it .was only necessary that he should remove the 
somewhat too suggestive marks and stains of pedestrian travel 
before entering Washington. For this there was a remedy. 
He had worn on the journey a suit of coarse strong material 
called " everlasting." Just outside the town he sought a seques 
tered spot, and exchanging his " everlastings" for habiliments 
of clean white cotton, the young barrister was prepared to enter 
the town, a cavalier without fear and without reproach on the 
score of his personal appearance. But a single day at court was 
all that the state of his purse or his wardrobe would allow; so 
having gone up on Tuesday, he returns on Wednesday, making 
the whole journey home on horseback, calling at his Uncle 
Grier s to take " Jack behind him to Crawfordville to carry the 
horse back." 

Shortly after this he goes in company with several gentlemen 
to be present at the Commencement at Athens. He does not 



92 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

tell us of the feelings inspired by thus revisiting the place where 
he had spent so many happy years. The lapse of time, and 
still more, the step that he has now taken into that active life 
for which those years were but the preparation, probably have 
quenched his old longings for its scholastic quiet and calm re 
currence of studious hours. He only speaks of having spent 
his time there "very pleasantly, considering the great crowd;" 
then returns home, and in a few days passes another epoch in his 
life, he receives his first fee. He thus speaks with less em 
phasis than we should have expected of this event . 

11 On Monday, August llth, got a fee of twenty-five dollars, the first in 
hand yet received, and that was only a note from Mr. II. Ellington. 
Tuesday, regulated Mr. E. s papers ; Wednesday, ditto ; Thursday, ditto." 

This old Mr. Hezekiah Ellington, the first to pay, or at least 
to give a written promise to pay, a fee to the young lawyer, was 
rather a character in his neighborhood. He had some property, 
and a small store in which he kept cigars, some little groceries, 
and liquors. He loved to drive a hard bargain ; yet once in his 
life he had been known to offer liberal indeed munificent pay 
ment for a very small service. As the circumstances were related 
by Mr. Stephens, we think it may not be out of place to relate 
them here. 

The old gentleman, several years before, on his plantation, 
was brought very low with malarious fever, and his physician 
and family had made up their minds that, notwithstanding his 
extreme reluctance to depart from this life, a reluctance height 
ened no doubt by his want of preparation for a better, he 
would be compelled to go. The system of therapeutics in 
vogue at that time and in that section included immense quan 
tities of calomel, and rigorously excluded cold water. Mr. 
Ellington lingered and lingered, and went without water so 
long and to such an extent that it seemed to him he might as 
well die of the disease as of the intolerable thirst that tormented 
him. Those who had him in charge took a different view, and 
seemed to think that if he must die it would be some consola 
tion to the afflicted survivors that the disease had been first 
overcome. So, despite his supplications, water was persistently 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 93 

refused for days and days. And still he lingered, despite the 
disease and the doctors, and seemed to take an unconscionable 
amount of killing. At last one night, when his physicians, 
deeming his case hopeless, had taken their departure, informing 
his family that he could hardly live till morning, and the latter, 
worn down by watching, were compelled to take a little rest, he 
was left to the care of his constant and faithful servant, Shad- 
rach, with strict and solemn charge to notify them if any change 
took place in his master s condition, and, above all, under no 
circumstances to give him cold water. 

When the rest were all asleep, Mr. Ellington, always astute 
and adroit in gaining his ends, and whose faculties at present 
were highly stimulated by his extreme necessity, called out to 
his attendant in a feeble voice, which he strove to make as 
natural and unsuggestive as possible, 

"Shadrach, go to the spring and fetch me a pitcher of water 
from the bottom." 

Shadrach expostulated, pleading the orders of the doctor and 
his mistress. 

" You Shadrach, you had better do what I tell you, sir." 

Shadrach still held by his orders. 

"Shadrach, if you don t bring me the water, when I get well 
I ll give you the .worst whipping you ever had in your life !" 

Shadrach either thought that if his master got well he would 
cherish no rancor toward the faithful servant, whose constancy 
had saved him, or, more likely, that the prospect of recovery 
was far too remote to justify any serious apprehension for his 
present disobedience; at all events, he held firm. The sick man 
finding this mode of attack ineffectual, paused awhile, and then 
said, in the most persuasive accents he could employ, 

" Shadrach, my boy, you are a good nigger, Shadrach. If 
you ll go now and fetch old master a pitcher of nice cool water, 
I ll set you free and give you Five Hund-red Dollars!" And 
he dragged the syllables slowly and heavily from his dry jaws, 
as if to make the sum appear immeasurably vast. 

But Shadrach was proof against even this temptation. He 
only admitted its force by arguing the case, urging that how 
could he stand it, and what good would his freedom and five 



94 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

hundred dollars do him if he should do a thing that would kill 
his old master ? 

The old gentleman groaned and moaned. At last he be 
thought him of one final stratagem. He raised his head as well 
as he could, turned his haggard face full upon Shadrach, and 
glaring at him from his hollow bloodshot eyes, said, 

" Shadrach, I am going to die, and it s because I can t get any 
water. If you don t go and bring me a pitcher of water, after 
I m dead I ll come back and HAUNT you ! I ll HAUXT you as 
long as you live !" 

" Oh Lordy ! Master ! You shall hab de water !" cried Shad- 
rach ; and he rushed out to the spring and brought it. The 
old man drank and drank, the pitcherful and more. The 
next morning he was decidedly better, and to the astonishment 
of all soon got well. 

Tli is was the old gentleman who was our young lawyer s 
first client, at least the first whose business occupied him, and 
the first to give him a promise to pay for services rendered. 
His accounts were evidently in a bad way, as his attorney spends 
three days in preliminary regulating, and how much more in 
collecting we cannot tell. However, he will get twenty-five 
dollars for it all, and that will support him for four months. 

The entries in the journal now grow more irregular. The 
Ellington papers have given him a good deal of trouble, and 
take up much time. We find a note of his attendance at a 
religious meeting at the Baptist church, where, from the circum 
stances, there would seem to have been what is sometimes termed 
a "revival." 

" During the night services I witnessed a scene, which for villainy of 
heart and deep depravity of human nature displayed, stands equal to any, 
if not unparalleled, in my personal experience. And I have either been so 
unfortunate in my acquaintance, or so uncharitable in my deductions, as 
long since to come to the conclusion that there dwells but little good in 
the human heart. The house was crowded, and there was considerable 
excitement among the people ; sbme exhorting, some praying, not a few 
crying aloud for mercy, with a few spectators looking on with due solemn 
ity. Among these last I must rank myself." 

To be less circumstantial than our diarist: Amono: the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 95 

"mourners/ as they were called, at the altar was a man who 
had a handsome young wife. While he was engaged in re 
ligious exercises, his wife was sitting on one of the rear seats, 
and a wild young man was making violent love to her. " I 
need not tell," he says, in conclusion, "how the furies seemed to 
urge him on, or how female weakness showed itself. Alas the 
world !" 

Very deplorable, undoubtedly; but perhaps not altogether 
" unparalleled" to those who have studied nervous pathology. 

In the same entry he thus refers to his first cash fee : 

"On Monday, the 1st inst., made my first address to a court. It was 
the Court of Ordinary of this county. I spoke, for James Farmer, and 
received two dollars in silver." " These four half-dollars," he afterwards 
said, "I kept a long time. I ought to have charged more for this and 
for the job of the Ellington papers ; but I did not know the value of my 
services." 

On September 8th he notes that a young gentleman, a Mr. 
Burch, has begun the study of law with him. "How the thing 
will ultimate I cannot tell, but hope for the best." 

The thing "ultimated" very satisfactorily. Robert S. Burch, 
then and always one of the most upright of men, became one 
of the soundest lawyers at the Georgia bar, and afterwards Mr. 
Stephens s partner. 

And now the time has come when Mr. Stephens thinks he 
must have a horse of his own. Besides the Ellington papers, 
he has another set to adjust, and these require more locomotion 
than he can perform on foot. With caution and mauy mis 
givings he sets about this momentous purchase. 

u September 10th. This day I was employed by Mr. Ililsman with the 
conditional fee of twenty dollars. But of all my business, the most im 
portant was the purchase of a horse. What will be the result of my first 
trade I can not tell." 

He made a mistake in setting down the purchase of the horse 
as the most important business of that day. The visit of James 
Hilsman was much more important, as it. proved. The matter 
at issue was this : 

Uriah Battle, a son of Isaac Battle, who lived near Powelton, 
but upon the Taliaferro side of the creek, had married Amanda 



96 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Askew, of Hancock. To this marriage a daughter was born, and 
shortly afterwards the husband died, leaving a young widow and 
infant child. The elder Battle afterwards took out letters of 
guardianship of the person and property of the child. Some 
time after this the widow married James Hilsman, a man of 
intemperate habits, and highly objectionable to Mr. Battle, who 
claimed possession of the child by virtue of the letters of guar 
dianship. The widow would not give it up ; so the grandfather 
employed a man to get possession of the child by stratagem. 
The man called at the house, talked with the child and petted it, 
and at last, taking it in his arms, hurried off at full speed, pur 
sued by the shrieking mother, and delivered it to the custody of 
the grandfather. It wa* then determined to appeal to the law, 
and the business referred to above was the employment of Mr. 
Stephens to take a course to secure to the mother the restoration 
and custody of her child. He therefore commenced proceedings 
in the Court of Ordinary, by taking a rule nisi, requiring Mr. 
Battle to show cause at the next term of court why his letters of* 
guardianship as to the person of the child should not be revoked, 
on grounds set forth in the rule. 

This case excited an astonishing amount of interest in both 
Taliaferro and Hancock Counties. The Battles were numerous 
and influential, and the greater part of the community, who knew 
the facts and circumstances, sympathized with them. On the clay 
of trial, at the next term of court, men, women, and children 
assembled, some even from Greene, Warren, and Wilkes Coun 
ties. The young lawyer had thoroughly prepared himself upon 
all the nice and intricate legal questions on which he knew the 
case would turn. To familiarize himself with the evidence, and 
to try the various modes of presentation, he argued the case over 
and over, in divers forms of argumentation, and in free and 
passionate declamation in the solitude of a lonely hill-side. 

The day and hour came. Court-house and court-yard were 
filled with hearers. Nine-tenths of them, though they knew 
Jeffries, the counsel for the Battles, well, had never seen Ste 
phens. When he arose, trembling and pale, there was a deep 
silence. After a brief exordium, he warmed with his subject, 
and addressing himself to the feelings of the court (consisting 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 97 

of five judges), burst into a strain of passionate eloquence that 
none of those present, save perhaps Jeffries and the Battles, 
could withstand. The picture he drew of the bereft mother was"^ 
one which made every one forget that she had married Mr. / 
James Hilsman, and was not now a poor widow robbed by death 
of the husband of her youth, and of the only pledge of their 
love by an enemy yet more cruel. In pleading for her child his 
eyes glittered and his voice quivered with the passion of a score 
of mothers. He planted himself upon the great law of nature 
that overrides all human statutes, or upon which all human 
statutes must rest. In vain had abundant testimony been ad 
vanced from the old burghers of Powelton that the child would 
be better cared for by the grandfather than by the mother in 
her new relation. All this was consumed in the fire of that 
eloquence, pleading for the sacred right of maternity. Men, 
women, and children wept ; many sobbed aloud. The five 
judges tried to preserve the balance of their official dignity, but 
they could not resist the contagious emotion, and tears were seen 
rolling down their cheeks, and when the argument was finished, 
their spokesman, with faltering voice, pronounced judgment in 
favor of the mother. 

The Battles gave it up ; and the next day, at Powelton, Dr. 
Cullen Battle, a cousin of the grandfather, said, laughingly, 
" When that little fellow began to argue that even among the 
beasts of the forest the mother was, by the great law of nature, 
the keeper of her offspring, and would fight even to the death for 
their custody, and all the judges fell to crying, I knew that 
Isaac would have to give up Martha Ann !" No speech of any 
young lawyer ever added more to his reputation than did this 
of Mr. Stephens. Indeed, it created his reputation. He had 
hitherto been regarded by the multitude with indifference, and 
by a few, who had been the friends of his father, with compas 
sion. But to-day, in the presence of all this multitude he had 
shown himself not only more than the peer of any lawyer in the 
county, but as destined to take rank with the first orators in the 

State. 

7 



CHAPTER X. 

A Hard "Winter A Friendly Rival and an Accurate Prediction An Offer 
A Trip " Out West" An Indian Host and his Family Interview 
with President Jackson Uncle James Stephens A Toast Dr. Foster 
again Friendly Counsels Georgia Railroads. 

THOUGH the odds, always apparently against him, have lately 
seemed heavier than ever, Alexander Stephens begins another 
year. This year, 1835, was memorable for storms and cold 
weather of all sorts. During the first three months the cold 
was more intense than had ever been known before, or has been 
felt since, in that region. The thermometer was often below 
zero of Fahrenheit, and once, on the terrible 8th of February, 
fell to 10. 

All the entries in the journal down to February 22d, refer to 
nothing but the weather. He was always a great hand for mak 
ing notes of the weather and meteorologic phenomena generally, 
of Avhich perhaps our readers may have noticed an instance or 
two. So it has been in most of his letters. His delicate health, 
doubtless, made him more sensitive to these changes ; and 
through January, and almost through February, he has appa 
rently done nothing but sit by the fire and talk about the cold 
outside. 

In the mean time there has been no new business of impor 
tance. The cold seems to have rendered men somewhat torpid, 
and less disposed to carry their grievances to court. He can 
live on six or eight dollars a month ; but to live on it he must 
first make it. On this 22d day of February he talks awhile on 
what he has been doing, and on what he hopes to do. 

" February 22d. . . . Have been for some time in serious thought upon 
the subject of my future prospects; and feel compelled to leave a place to 
which I feel so much attached. . . . We have in this village a society for 
debate in which I take much interest, and in which I feel that I have a 
formidable competitor in A. R. W., one of my old classmates." 
93 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 99 

This allusion in the journal brings to mind a conversation 
had with Mr. Stephens in 1866, in which this A. R. W. was 
mentioned. Mr. Johnston was then on a visit at Liberty Hall, 
and on one afternoon took a long walk with his host down the 
small stream to the north of the house. 

" Along this branch," he said, " when I first came to the bar, 
I used to walk once or twice in every week to Thomas Ray s, 
whose wife was my cousin. I would go home with the children 
from school, and spend the night. The next morning, as I re 
turned, I used to declaim in the woods that were here then, upon 
imaginary topics." 

" It was at Cousin Sabrina Ray s that I first became acquainted with 
Dr. Foster, who afterwards became one of my best friends, the Mentor of 
my young manhood. lie used frequently to go out there when worn down 
by his practice, in order to get rid of the multitude. When he went, he 
would lie on a bed and rest all day. He had a high esteem for Cousin 
Sabry, and called her cousin, as I did. I heard of his saying something 
about me in one of these visits which did me great good. At that time 
there was a debating society in Crawfordville. A. 11. Wright,* who was 
then residing there and practising law, and I, were usually on opposite 
sides of questions. Cousin Sabry, Mrs. Battle, and some other ladies were 
speaking of Wright and myself, when they appealed to Dr. Foster, who 
said, l The difference between Wright and Stephens is about this : they 
will both get into Congress ; but Stephens will get there in ten years, and 
Wright in twenty. The report of this compliment gave me great encour 
agement. It was curious how near the prediction was to literal fulfilment. 
I was elected to Congress in nine years, and Wright in exactly twenty." 

In the same entry he records a visit that he paid to his old 
friend and benefactor, Mr. A. L. Alexander, who, it will be 
remembered, had befriended him so kindly when he thought of 
preparing himself for the ministry. He made the call, which 
he felt to be one of duty, with many misgivings, for he did not 
know how his change of purpose was regarded, nor whether he 
might not be looked upon as ungrateful for not carrying out his 
benefactor s wishes. His reception, he says, was not unfriendly, 
but cool ; and no allusion was made to his course or prospects. 

" I endeavored to be familiar, and by some means to show that honesty 
of purpose of which I was conscious. But a most soul-killing feeling it 

* Afterwards member of Congress and Judge of the Superior Court. 



100 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

is to know one s self suspected, and to feel conscious that every attempt 
to exculpate or explain is viewed as only another evidence of guilt. This 
was my case ; and feeling myself overwhelmed by fate, I took my leave as 
early as convenient, with a heart full of meditation, sore with reflection, 
torn with grief, and yet feeling that so long as life should last the re 
membrance of my first acquaintance with Adam L. Alexander, and its 
incidents, will be like the music of Caryl, pleasant, but mournful to the 
soul." 

It was about this time that Mr. Jeffries removed from Craw 
fordville, and . proposed to Mr. Stephens to go with him to Co 
lumbus and become his partner, as before mentioned. He relates 
the incident and the grounds of his refusal in a letter dated June 
3d, 1856. 

" I assure you that that part of my life which is by far the most inter 
esting is that which was spent on the old homestead, under the paternal 
roof, and in the family circle. That was the day-dawn period with me. 
It was short, nor was it always happy, far from it ; but the remembrance 
of it has always been sweet though mournful. My strong attachment to 
the place, the hills, the springs, the brooks, the rocks, and even the gullies 
with which I was familiar from my earliest recollection, determined my 
whole course of life. By that alone my destiny has been controlled. It 
was this alone that caused me to settle in Crawfordville, close by, where I 
could visit them at pleasure. When I was admitted to the bar in 1834, 
the prospect of a young lawyer there without means was little short of 
starvation just ahead. The most liberal inducements were offered me to 
go to Columbus and become one of a firm, with a proffered guarantee of 
fifteen hundred dollars for the first year. This I declined for no other 
reason but a fixed determination I had formed never to quit, if I could 
avoid it, those places nearest my heart, where I played as well as toiled in 
my youth, about which I had so often dreamed in my orphan wanderings, 
and which I was determined to own in my own name if I should ever be 
able to make the purchase. This is what kept me at Crawfordville. And 
often during the first year after my settlement there did I walk dowji (for 
horse I had none to ride) to see those old familiar scenes, and earnestly 
look forward to the day when by aid of propitious fortune I might call 
them my own, and feel that whatever else might betide me, I had the place 
which of all others I wished to live at, and to be buried at when I die. 
This local attachment, I tell you, warped, shaped, and controlled my des 
tiny. . . . The great object of my youthful days, to buy it back again, I 
was unable to accomplish until 1838. The owner, wishing to remove to 
Alabama, came to terms upon which we agreed, and I own it still. I have 
added considerably to it since ; but it is all esteemed by me as the old 
homestead, about which cluster the brightest images in the memory of 
my whole existence." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. JQ1 

The entries from this time until March 19th relate entirely 
to the weather, which he chronicles with the conscientiousness 
of a meteorologist. The low range of the thermometer is noted 
with dismay. It has been the coldest winter in the recollection 
of living men. Here we have the first indications of its mod 
erating : 

" March 19th. Cleared off in the night, with high wind from the N.W. : 
not very cold. To-morrow night, by appointment, I am to take part in 
our debating society in the discussion of nullification. Have bestowed 
some thought upon the question, but find the whole involved in much 
obscurity. I have found what I consider to be a correct definition of Sov 
ereignty. It is a moral attribute, vested with full moral power, natural or 
adventitious, to do whatever is consistent with right and duty. In its 
nature it is inalienable : it cannot be transferred. It can be delegated as 
a trust, but can never be conveyed in fee. It is an estate tail general in 
the male line, secured thrdugh Adam to all his posterity, and of which no 
father can deprive his offspring, nor any government its subjects."* 

Having nothing to do this month, and but little promise for 
the next, Mr. Stephens determined to take a trip " out West" 
with a small party of friends. A remarkably succinct account 
of this jaunt, which was not very satisfactory, is given in the 
journal. "Robin Adair," the horse he bought, falls lame from 
a smith s clumsiness in shoeing him, which leads his owner to 
conclude that " it requires great skill even to shoe a horse." 
However, Robin manages to keep up with the party, and they 
push on across the Oconee, the Ockmulgee, the Flint, the Chat- 
tahoochee, and even the Tallapoosa, Alabama. They find the 
lands good ; and our traveller thinks that there were good pros 
pects " for all kinds of enterprises in which a man could so 
abandon himself to circumstances as to rush into the contest 
regardless of his character or that of his companions." 

" There is no uniformity of character," he observes, " among the people 
of Alabama, the population being composed of immigrants from all parts 
of the world, and of all varieties of morals, dispositions, tempers, and 
conditions of life. The whole presents a heterogeneous mass of irregular 
and confused material, much needing the hand of time and education to 
shape and to form into symmetrical order." 

* This embryo definition of sovereignty was afterwards considerably 
enlarged and accurately formulated in his War between the States. 



102 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

To reach the objective-point of their travels they had to pass 
through the Creek nation, and lodged one night with an Indian. 
The circumstance is thus described : 

" We found that our host was a man of authority among his own people, 
the chief of his town. His name was Witholo-mico^ He lives on the 
banks of the Tallapoosa, near his own ferry, about twelve miles above 
Autossee battle-ground. It was night when we arrived, and found for our 
accommodation that there were two cabins upon the premises, about twelve, 
feet square and eight feet high each, and having puncheon floors. One 
had a small piazza in front, and both had the crevices between the poles 
of which they were built neatly stopped or daubed with red clay. Into 
one of these we, nine in number, were conducted, saddles, blankets, bridles, 
and all except horses, which were turned into a neighboring lot, where the 
chief gave them corn and fodder. We found but four Indians about, the 
chief, his wife, and two others, one a boy. The wife soon arrayed her 
self in a new clean dress, seeming to think tha dirty smock in which we 
found her not becoming the lady of a chieftain in the presence of w T hite 
men. She then busied herself in preparing us some supper, which, when 
it came (in about an hour), consisted of fried bacon, eggs, corn-bread, and 
coffee, very good fare for travellers. At table we had all the accommo 
dations of civilized life, such as plates, knives and forks, cups and saucers, 
etc. But in the sleeping line we were not so fortunate. Two bedsteads 
were standing in two corners of the house, having, instead of cords, boards 
laid across their sides, over which were thrown some blankets. All our 
company were soon extended on one or the other of these hard couches, 
all but myself. For my part I felt little like sleeping. The hour, the 
place, and circumstances allowed no repose to my mind. The lofty look 
and dignified mien of Witholo-mico (who had retired to the other house), 
his keen, deep-sunken eye, his strange guttural sounds, which flowed while 
speaking to his wife in such commanding eloquent tone, were all before 
me. Then the whole Indian history, the origin of that powerful race 
which once occupied undisturbed this vast extent of country, their habits 
as observed by the first settlers and before their contamination by the 
white man, their virtues, their patriotism, all these, compared with their 
present sunk and degrade^ condition, crowded themselves upon my mind 
in such a tide of reflection, that I was absorbed in thought until almost 
the breaking of day^ 

" In the morning, I was delighted to see the chief arrayed in his national 
costume, which I supposed he had donned in compliance with a wish I had 
made to that effect the evening before in his presence, not thinking that 
he could understand what I was saying. His dress was buckskin leggings, 
reaching up to the hip, beaded with materials of different colors, but mostly 
red, on the outer seams; a coat or gown reaching half-way down the 
thigh, also beaded in various parts : a shirt extending in peaked form in 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 1Q3 

front nearly to the knee ; a red band about the waist, which was elegantly 
beaded ; in front a kind of case or sheath for the reception of a large 
butcher-knife or dirk. This belt hung nearly to the ground, much like 
the sash of one of our field-officers. And to conclude, his head was bound 
about with a kind of loose bandage of red color, very full, passing directly 
around and across the forehead, leaving the top of the head perfectly bare. 
" The chief had nothing to say to the whites, which I at first attributed 
to his want of acquaintance with our language ; but afterwards was dis 
posed to think it owing to some other cause, either a sense of his superior 
dignity, or the fear of appearing to his own people to show too great 
familiarity towards foreigners, particularly their worst enemies. He kept 
himself close in his own apartment during the night, and though he was 
up early in the morning, and appeared very active and diligent in serving 
us and making us as comfortable as possible, yet all was done in the most 
dignified, reserved, and unrelaxing taciturnity." 

The account of this trip, which our traveller characterizes as 
" much the longest journey I have ever accomplished," closes 
with an admission of his being on the whole well pleased ; but 
with an avowal of having no notion of settling in the region 
which he had traversed. 

In May he took a trip to the North, in connection with which 
he relates two anecdotes which may not be out of place here. 

One is his first and only interview with General Jackson. 
Mr. Stephens had left home on or about May 20th, travelling 
by mail-coach on the old Piedmont line. On taking the stage 
at Washington, Georgia, several parties announced the startling 
intelligence of the outbreak of hostilities in the Creek nation, 
and the massacre of the passengers on several of the United 
States coaches coming through. The passengers who got out at 
Washington were in the only coach on the train that escaped. 
Early in the morning after his arrival at the capital, Mr. 
Stephens called on the President to pay his respects. The Gen 
eral cordially shook hands, and insisted on his taking a seat. 
He was sitting alone by a fire, the morning being raw and cold, 
in his dressing-gown and slippers, his silver pipe lying by him 
on the floor. His first inquiry after his guest was seated was, 
" What is the news in Georgia?" Mr. Stephens said there was 
nothing of public interest, except an outbreak of Creeks, who 
had massacred the passengers of seven or eight coaches in the 
Creek nation, between Columbus and Montgomery; an outrage 



104 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

which had created great excitement at Columbus. " Yes/ 7 said 
Jackson, " I have just got a letter by mail the lower route 
telling me the alarming state of things in Columbus. In the name 
of God, where s Howard ?" (Major John H. Howard, whom the 
Legislature had put at the head of a battalion to repel any out 
break of the Indians on the western border.) Mr. Stephens 
replied, " He was down about Florence or Koanoke by last ad 
vices." " Why don t he move his forces at once across the 
river? 77 " I don t know : there may be some question of juris 
diction, his being Georgia forces, under control of Georgia 
authorities." "Jurisdiction, by the Eternal! when the United 
States mail is robbed and citizens murdered !" And springing 
to his feet, " In the name of God, how big a place is Colum 
bus?" " About three thousand inhabitants." "Why don t 
they turn out in force and drive back the Indians ? Here I 
have letters calling on me for aid, and telling me the whole 
population is flying to the interior !" The General then grew 
calmer, inquired the distance of Florence from Columbus and 
the point of massacre, and asked about the Indian country. 
Mr. Stephens informed him, and spoke of his own journey 
through that country, and his lodging with Witholo-mico. The 
General knew that chieftain well, and was glad to hear that he 
was in no way connected with the outbreak. He kept Mr. 
Stephens for more than an hour; and the latter was greatly 
struck with his weakness and emaciation and the feebleness of 
his voice, and the power and energy he displayed when aroused. 
The other anecdote is this : On his journey to New York, 
he turned aside to visit his old uncle, James Stephens, who lived 
in Perry County, Pennsylvania, near the mouth of the Juniata. 
The family, who had heard nothing of his coming, were at once 
surprised and gratified at seeing him. The uncle and some of 
the boys were out at work on the farm, but soon came in, and 
then an older brother s family were sent for. The aunt and the 
girls at once set about getting up a good country dinner in honor 
of the occasion. When all were seated at the table, the old 
uncle at one end and the aunt at the other, Uncle James asked, 
" Well, Alexander, what business are you pursuing ?" He re 
plied, " I am a lawyer." Instantly the whole table was silent. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 105 

The old gentleman threw down his knife and fork and looked 
at his nephew with a sort of horrified amazement, as if he had 
said he was a highwayman or a pirate. "What s the matter, 
Uncle James ?" " Did you say you were a lawyer?" "Yes." 
" A laim/er?" " What of that?" With an expression of com 
plete despair he asked, " Alexander, don t you have to tell lies $" 
His nephew, greatly amused, replied, " No, sir ; the business of 
a lawyer is neither to tell lies nor to defend lies, but to protect 
and maintain right, truth, and justice; to defend the weak 
against the strong; to expose fraud, perjuries, lies, and wrongs 
of all sorts. The business of a lawyer is the highest and noblest 
of any on earth connected with the duties of life." This seemed 
to calm the old gentleman s fears. 

A few entries more in the journal bring us down to the Fourth 
of July, and its inevitable oration. This time, however, A. R.. 
W. has the first place, being the orator of the day; while to 
Mr. Stephens is assigned the reading of the Declaration of Inde 
pendence. The ceremony closed with a dinner and the usual 
toasts. 

" My sentiment," says he, "was this : Nominative Conventions. Dan 
gerous inroads upon Republican simplicity, and utterly inconsistent with 
the exercise of that free choice in the selection of their officers which 
constitutes the dearest right of freemen. May the intelligent people of 
this country never become the misguided dupes of a Jacobinical Directory 1 
Opposition was made, and the sentiment drunk by few. So, .thought I, 
pass on the unthinking multitude, never considering their rights until too 
much endangered to be secured ; never considering that they should think 
for thein.selves ; but readily sanctioning whatever is endorsed for them by 
higher authority, thus becoming the fit instruments in skilful hands for 
the execution of any purpose. Strange, passing strange, that men, intel 
ligent men, who ought to appreciate the cost and price of their franchises, 
will thus but it is unnecessary to censure. The fact exists, and men are 
rather to be pitied than upbraided." 

The dry season ended on the 13th of July with a glorious 
rain. This put everybody in good spirits ; and our friend had 
that night much to write about the weather. He gives the 
whole chronicle of it for months, beginning with that trip to 
Alabama. Never was there a man, outside of those whose 
business it is to record these phenomena, who had so much to 



106 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

say about the weather, a habit which was to last as long as 
he lived. But the rain improves business as well as the crops, 
we find. 

" July 16th. Business was quite lively to-day. William Jones, a mer 
chant in this place, absconded, and left many creditors to suffer. I have 
since last night written twelve attachments, and I suppose that as many 
have been issued elsewhere. It seems to me that the laws providing for 
the satisfaction of the claims of absconding debtors are, like many others 
of our system, very defective. For they can be called nothing but a snatch- 
and-take. The individuals who are nearest the scene of action and can use 
their fingers the quickest, or have money to secure this end, can always 
be safe ; while those at a distance, or such as are lying under some other 
disadvantage, are totally losers. Not only so, but our present system of 
attaching might be used as an instrument of the grossest fraud. For 
should a man of extensive securities and debts become too much involved 
to meet the demands upon him, and then communicate this fact to a few 
of his creditors whom he feels disposed to favor, it is evident that arrange 
ments may be all made ready for the favored creditors to attach and 
secure themselves instantly upon the departure of the debtor, while others 
quite as justly entitled to relief are excluded by this snatch law." 

A just criticism upon the law of Georgia, as it then stood, 
which provided that those attachments which were first levied 
should be first satisfied ; a state of things which always created 
a rush and scramble among home creditors, while foreign cred 
itors never heard of it until the debtor was beyond pursuit 
and his effects divided. This defect in the law has since been 
remedied. 

The entries now contain but little of interest for a long time. 
In November he has a bit of business : 

" November 27th. Went to Warrenton for the purpose of aiding McGuire 
in obtaining his enlargement. He was confined in jail for assault with 
intent to murder. Rain in the evening. I got three of the court together 
between nine and ten o clock P.M. One drunk. Court could not agree 
upon the amount of the bond, and adjourned until eight o clock next 
morning. Succeeded the next day in getting bail for McGuire ; felt grati 
fied at the relief afforded the prisoner." 

This release of the prisoner closes up the business of the year, 
as far as lawver Stephens is concerned. It has not brought him 
much profit; but as he can come nearer than most men to living 
on nothing, while others of his professional brethren are moving 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 1Q7 

away in search of less sterile pastures, he still clings to the old 
place. The little money that he can save he spends on books ; the 
much time at his disposal he employs in reading them. An 
extract from the Finkle correspondence will throw some light 
on this period. 

" No one can imagine how I worked, how I delved, ho\v I labored 
over books. Often I spent the whole night over a law-book, and went to 
bed as the dawn of day was streaking the east. My business increased, 
and I studied hard to keep up with it and keep the mastery over it. My 
brother, A. G.. who in 1834 taught school in the Asbury settlement, 
visited me often, and we spent many pleasant evenings together, when 
there was no preaching in town, in walking over to the old homestead, 
and running over the hills and up and down the branches. These excur 
sions constituted most of my recreation during these two years, except 
when I went up to see him, or went on a visit to Uncle Aaron G. Grier 
and old Aunt Betsey. My time was occupied almost constantly on week 
days in reading, studying, and office business. I never lounged about 
with village crowds." 

Dr. Foster and Mr. Stephens became quite intimate in the 
course of time. He found the doctor to be, as he often ex 
pressed it, "a most wonderful man. 77 His knowledge was sur 
prising ; not in his profession only, but in history, science, and 
art. From him he obtained a fund of information which he 
could not then have known how to find elsewhere. This 
Mentor of his youth, as he used afterwards to call him, often 
withdrew him from his studies when he seemed to be too deeply 
immersed in them, and forced him to relax a little. On some 
mornings the good doctor would present himself on horseback 
at his friend s office, saying that he was going on a professional 
visit of ten or fifteen miles, and had come to take Mr. Stephens 
with him. No remonstrances or pleas would avail; he must 
get a horse and be ready by the time the doctor returned from 
a visit in the village. So the horse was got, and forth the two 
would sally, to be gone sometimes until the next day. In these 
excursions he not only improved his health by the exercise and 
relaxation, but he learned much from Foster s well-stored mind 
and large experience, and gathered from his friend wisdom of a 
kind that is not to be found in books. The worthy doctor 
knew the world, its good and its evil, and would advise as one 



108 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

who knew. He had himself struggled up through poverty and 
other adverse fortune, and had learned that integrity and in 
dustry, even without extraneous aid, will surely in the end 
bring success. His example bore out his precepts; and when 
ever his young friend felt like despairing, the sight of this 
excellent and brave man, who, after long toils and the buffetings 
of adversity, had patiently worked his way alone to prosperity 
and reputation, gave him courage to press on and patience to 
endure. 

In the year 1836 litigation was destined to increase. Money 
was becoming more plentiful, and, the usual result, the tide of 
speculation was setting in. All things were preparing the great 
financial crisis which was at hand. Stephens was now estab 
lished in reputation, and his business was extending into other 
counties besides Taliaferro. The problem of living, at all events, 
was settled for him ; and Foster felt that he could now afford 
to unbend a little, and open his mind to other than professional 
topics. The subject of railroads was then, as w r e have seen, at 
tracting much attention. This subject Dr. Foster had studied 
until he was as thoroughly acquainted with it as any other man 
in the State ; and indeed was the prime mover in the enterprise 
of building the Georgia State Koad. Mr. Stephens did not 
know, while listening as Dr. Foster descanted upon the magnifi 
cent results sure to follow the adoption of this system, that he 
was then being trained to act as its champion before the General 
Assembly of the State. But the doctor knew. 



CHAPTER XL 

Political Review The Two Great Questions The National and Federal 
Plans The Two Parties Powers of the Federal Government and of the 
States Great and Small States Meaning of the Two Houses of Congress 
Different Interests of the Northern and Southern States Apportion 
ment of Representation The "Three-fifths Clause" The Tariff 1 The 
North wishes to cede to Spain the Navigation of the Mississippi Ingeni 
ous Strategy The "Alien and Sedition Acts" Resolutions of 1798 and 
1799 War of 1812 Acquisition of Louisiana Mr. Quincy, of Massachu 
setts The " Missouri Compromise" made and broken Mr. Clay s Com 
promise " Internal Improvements" " Protective" Tariffs " Nullifica 
tion" Movement in South Carolina A Threatened Collision Northern 
and Southern Democrats. 

IN order rightly to understand the political career of any 
American statesman, and to comprehend the significance and 
tendency of the events in which he has borne a part, we must 
not limit our view to the events themselves, but must look be 
yond them into the causes of which they are but the visible 
effects. And such a course is especially necessary in the case 
of a man like Mr. Stephens, whose actions have been guided 
throughout by fundamental principles, and not by temporary 
motives of convenience or expediency. 

At the root of all the great and very many of the small 
political questions that have divided the councils or agitated the 
citizens of the Federal Republic from the adoption of the Con 
stitution and even before it, to the present day, will be found 
two fundamental causes of dissension, two, which afterwards 
became merged into one. These gave birth to the great parties 
that, under various names, have divided the American people : 
in every important measure we may trace their operation, and 
in every considerable debate we find their champions. From 
these all later divisions have sprung : their irreconcilable antag 
onism brought on the war between the States: they are still 
operative in shaping the destinies of the country; and if we 

109 



HO LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

thoroughly comprehend them we shall hold a clew that will 
lead us through the intricate labyrinth of American politics. 

The remodellers of the Articles of Confederation found them 
selves brought face to face with perhaps the most difficult task 
ever undertaken by man, and with no previous experience to 
guide them. They met, not as the delegates of a people, but as 
the representatives of twelve distinct and independent sovereign 
ties which they proposed to combine, by solemn compact, in a 
Federal Republic, so framed that while this republic should op 
pose the strength of a great State against foreign aggression, it 
might also offer the security which a small State affords its citi 
zens against domestic tyranny. They had to present to States 
still glorying in their newly-won liberty the concessions which 
such an organization required, in a form that would least alarm 
their jealous independence ; to reconcile, as best they could, an 
tagonistic interests; to balance conflicting powers, and to adjust 
the various departments of the new-modelled organization so 
that neither should attain a dangerous preponderance, nor any 
collision occur in their working for the common interest. And 
all these adjustments had to be made, not for a territory defi 
nitely limited by natural boundaries, but for a country capable 
of indefinite expansion in almost every direction. In scarcely 
one of these points did they quite succeed ; but it is matter of 
amazement that they accomplished what they did. 

The first and greatest difficulty that they had to cope with, 
and which very nearly proved fatal, was the adjustment of the 
relations between the Federal Government and the States. In 
the Convention of 1787 there was a considerable party who either 
naturally leaned towards a monarchy in substance if not in name, 
or thought the danger of foreign aggression far greater than that 
of the tyranny of a majority, or else trusted that of such a ma 
jority their own States would form a component part. These 
were for increasing the strength of the Federal power at the 
expense of the States ; and they urged the advantages and even 
the necessity of a "strong government/ and the danger of the 
States flying off at the first clash of colliding interests, and the 
whole fabric crumbling to its elements. This party, at the 
outset, presented to the Convention what was known as the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. \\\ 

"Virginia plan" of union, under which the States would have 
been merged into a consolidated national Republic. 

On the other hand, it was forcibly urged that the States pro 
posed to form this union for the security of their recently- won 
liberties, and not to place upon their necks a heavier yoke than 
that which they had cast off; that to give power to the Federal 
Qovernment was simply to give power to the majority, always 
disposed to trample the interests of the minority under its feet. 
So great was this apprehension of the tyrannous instincts of 
majorities, that it is probable that their efforts would have 
accomplished nothing but for the fact that the States then in 
the minority expected soon to find themselves in the majority. 

This question, after infinite difficulty, and after the Conven 
tion had been several times at the brink of dissolution, was at 
length settled. The Virginia plan of a National government 
was rejected, and the Federal form continued. To the Federal 
Government was conceded just so much additional power and 
no more, with the necessary new machinery for its execution, as 
was thought to be requisite for the performance of the functions 
entrusted to it. It was permitted as before to declare war and 
conclude peace with foreign powers, to make treaties, to estab 
lish a uniform coinage and system of weights and measures, to 
act as umpire between the States, and so forth. As the States 
delegated these powers to the Federal Government of course 
they waived their own right to exercise them, and declared the 
laws of the United States to be, in these points, the supreme 
law of the land, so far as its acts were in conformity with the 
compact of unity, that is, that they were paramount over the 
laws or constitutions of the States in those matters which the 
States had placed under Federal control. In all other matters 
the States explicitly reserved their own sovereign rights, as was 
expressly asserted in the Constitution itself (X. Amendment) 
and in the acts of ratification. 

With this strict and carefully-guarded limitation of its 
powers the Federal Government was formed. But the two 
antagonistic principles still remained, and gave birth to two 
great parties. Under the varying names of Nationals, and 
divers others, have been grouped the original Consolidation ists 



112 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

of 1787 and their successors, whose constant policy has been to 
bring the Government as nearly as possible to the form of the 
Virginia plan. They have steadily aimed at an increase of the 
Federal power at the expense of the States (since, all powers 
being divided between them, whatever the one wins the others 
must lose), favored those measures that from time to time arose 
involving such increase, and inculcated the idea of a " National 
government," an idea and a term proposed to, and unanimously 
rejected by, the Convention of 1787. The tendency of this 
party, when carried to an extreme, leads to consolidation of the 
States into a nation ; in other words, the transformation of a 
union of Republics into an Empire. 

By the opposite party, known at various times under the 
names of Republicans, Democrats, and later, State-rights men, 
it was persistently insisted upon that the liberties of the people 
were sufficiently secured by the Articles of Confederation under 
which they were achieved ; but that those Articles were chiefly 
defective in this, that the acts of Congress within the sphere of 
their limited powers under these Articles could not act directly 
upon the people, but depended for their execution upon the 
sanction of the States respectively. This side insisted that the 
only proper and required changes in the Articles they were then 
called upon to remodel was to so change the organization and 
machinery under it that the Federal Government should have 
as supreme authority to execute all the delegated powers as the 
States had in all the reserved powers. The Federal Government 
was to be as perfect a conventional State, within the sphere of 
its delegated powers, as each State in that of its reserved 
powers. They were utterly opposed to a consolidated republic, 
and in favor of preserving the federative feature. Since that 
time this party has been jealous of the sovereignty and reserved 
rights of the States, and dreaded every step toward consolidation. 

Both these parties originally took the broad ground of con 
sulting the good, not of any section, but of the whole country, 
and they were therefore great and legitimate parties. It was 
left for a later day to produce sectional parties avowedly con 
sulting the welfare of their own sections only. When that point 
had been reached a rupture was inevitable. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Out of this great primary question grew a secondary one, the 
adjustment of relations between the great and the small States. 
In the Convention, where the voting was by States only, each 
State had an equal vote; but it was manifestly unfair that in 
the government there should be no proportionate representation 
of the greater population and vaster interests of the large States 
over those of the small ones. Without some such representa 
tion the large States would have refused to sanction the plan ; 
the great State of New York, for instance, would never have 
allowed her vote and influence to be cancelled by the little State 
of Delaware, if ever their interests happened to clash. 

On the other hand the small States entered the Convention as 
equal sovereign powers, and they were resolutely determined 
not to abdicate that position. Delaware was not disposed to 
allow her vote to be swallowed up by that of Pennsylvania, as 
if she were merely a county of that great State. The jealousies 
and apprehensions of the small States on this point were very 
great ; and Rhode Island kept entirely aloof from the Conven 
tion, was not represented in it, and deferred acceding to the 
Union until 1789. 

This difficulty was at last overcome by the mode of consti 
tuting the two branches of the Federal Legislature ; the lower 
House being constituted to represent the people of the several 
States (not the people of the United States, who cannot act in 
their collective capacity, and have no existence as a political 
entity) proportioned in numbers to the population of each State, 
and elected by popular vote ; the Senate representing the States 
themselves (not the Legislatures of the States) as separate and 
equal sovereignties, and in it the States, whether large or small, 
have an equal representation, chosen by the State Legislatures. 
Thus the Senate, it was thought, in which the smallest State has 
an equal voice with the largest, would check the aggressiveness 
of numerical majorities. Of course the case might occur, when 
the States grew more numerous, that a common interest might 
band together a majority of States including the largest, which 
would then control both the Senate and the House ; but against 
this contingency it was impossible to provide. Much stress, too, 
was laid, in the discussion of these questions, on the conserva- 



114 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

tive nature of patriotism, which, it was assumed, would induce 
majorities to forego some advantages for the sake of the welfare 
of the whole, a cheerful optimism hardly warranted by history, 
and not confirmed by the results. 

It should be noted that in the plan finally adopted by the 
Convention the Government still remains a government of 
States, and for States, because no law can pass if a majority 
of States (in the Senate) be against it. 

Another problem, springing out of this great question, arose 
in the distribution of the powers of the Federal Government. 
The President was empowered to withhold his consent and 
signature from any bill of which he did not approve, which 
could only then become a law upon receiving the votes of two- 
thirds of both Houses of Congress. Thus, if the President 
believed a bill to be unconstitutional, he could, by his veto, 
interpose the shield of the Constitution to protect the minority. 
And even if an unconstitutional law received the President s 
approval, or were passed by the requisite majority over his veto, 
cases occurring under it could be carried to the Supreme Court 
of the United States, and the validity of the law tested there ; 
and from this tribunal there was no appeal in the matter of 
rights between the parties as thus adjudicated in the case made. 
This was a strong barrier in the way of the Consolidationists, 
who have since endeavored to make both the President and the 
Supreme Court subservient to Congress. 

The second fundamental and permanent cause of dissension 
arose from the diverging interests of the Northern and Southern 
States. The States of New England had a sterile soil and a 
rigorous climate, unfavorable to agriculture ; but they enjoyed 
great advantages of water-power for manufacturing, and of bays 
and harbors favorable for shipping. Hence they devoted their 
chief attention to manufactures, commerce, and fishing. The 
South, with a fertile soil and genial climate, devoted herself to 
agriculture. The system of African slave-labor, formerly in 
use in all the States, had worked to great advantage in the 
South, while in the North it had proved unprofitable ; and 
though Massachusetts alone had formally abolished it, the other 
New England States looked to its extinction in their territory. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. H5 

From this difference several questions arose. Maryland and 
Virginia desired a stop put to the importation of slaves from 
Africa; South Carolina and Georgia desired its continuance. 
This traffic was carried on in New England vessels ; and con 
sequently the New England States, without exception, argued 
and voted for its continuance. This question was settled by its 
continuance until 1808, and no longer. The provision for the 
return of fugitive slaves was adopted unanimously. 

Another question arose upon the apportionment of represen 
tation among the States. As, at the North, the entire popu 
lation, including women, children, paupers, and idiots, were 
included in the estimate, the South demanded that the slaves 
should be so estimated. But as such an estimate, however just, 
would have given the Southern States a majority of represen 
tatives, the North vehemently opposed it, on the ground that 
slaves, being articles of merchandise, could not be included in 
the population. The South replied that they were persons, 
and a producing class, and fully as well entitled to rank as 
population as were the non-producing children, idiots, and 
paupers of the North, or as the free negroes. It was finally 
compromised by estimating five slaves as equal in the production 
of wealth to three free persons, an estimate already fixed upon 
in apportioning direct taxation. This left the South slightly 
in the minority in the House of Representatives. 

Closely connected with this was the question of the regula 
tion of commerce, including the power of imposing tariffs. 
The Eastern commercial and manufacturing States earnestly 
desired to get this great power into their hands ; and if these 
acts could be passed by a mere majority of votes, they would 
have this power, as the North already outnumbered the South 
in both Houses, Delaware being then considered a Northern 
State. The South, therefore, insisted that acts to regulate com 
merce should require a two-thirds majority. However, they 
finally yielded this point, and entrusted the control of commerce 
and navigation to a bare majority, that is, to the Northern 
States. 

In truth, at this time the Southern States expected soon to 
find themselves the majority, as it was admitted that their 



11(3 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H< STEPHENS. 

growth was then more rapid than that of the Northern States. 
But the North was determined so to use her tenure of power as, if 
possible, to make it perpetual. Two points may be mentioned : 

Before the formation of the new Constitution, Virginia had 
ceded to the United States collectively her vast territory north 
west of the Ohio, and agreed that it might be, in process of 
time, organized into non-slaveholding (and therefore Northern) 
States. But to this immense gift she attached two conditions, 
both of which were accepted, but only one of which was kept. 
She stipulated that not more than five States should be made out 
of this territory. She also stipulated that these States should 
bind themselves to return fugitive slaves; this they, at a later 
date, refused to do. 

While thus endeavoring to increase their own power, the 
Northern States also strove to check the growth of the South. 
Immigration was setting strongly toward the Southwest, and 
the South calculated on the accession of new States in that 
region. To check this the North hit upon the device of ceding 
to Spain the exclusive right to the navigation of the Missis 
sippi, a policy which would have effectually stifled the growth 
of the Southwest. Fortunately, the attempt was made a little 
too soon, before the adoption of the new Constitution as under 
the Articles of Confederation a two-thirds majority of the States 
was requisite for concluding a treaty. This majority they could 
not obtain ; and they therefore had recourse to a very ingenious 
expedient. Their device was this : to pass, by the two-thirds 
majority, a series of instructions to the Secretary of State, 
authorizing him to conclude a treaty with Spain, but forbidding 
the concession to that country of the claim of the States to the 
control of the Mississippi. This passed, they proposed to repeal, 
by a bare majority, this prohibitory clause, leaving the Secre 
tary free to conclude a treaty in accordance with their wishes. 
This stratagem, however, when revealed, excited so much in 
dignation that it was abandoned. 

Thus, as we have seen, and shall more fully see hereafter, 
these two great antagonisms the antagonism between those 
who favored a National and those who favored a Federal 
government, and the antagonism between the North and the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. H7 

South underlay all important political questions, and drew 
nearly all minor questions into their vortices. Every measure 
that tended to strengthen the central government or to weaken 
the States was favored by one party and resisted by the other. 
As the Northern States were usually in the majority, and the 
Constitution, which so jealously guarded the liberties of the 
States, was the shield of the minority, the North is usually 
found advocating a " liberal construction" of the Constitution, 
and the South a "strict construction." But when an occasion 
arises in which a part of the Northern States find their interests 
at variance with the wishes of the majority, we see them at once 
appealing to the Constitution, and urging the reserved rights 
of the States. *X 

During the administration of Washington several attempts 
were made to invade the true meaning and spirit of the Con 
stitution, and these originated with the former National, at this 
time called " Federal," party. They endeavored to induce Con 
gress to adopt measures looking to the abolition of slavery. 
This was an invasion of the rights of the States, and Congress 
declared that it had no authority to interfere in the matter. 
Other measures also came up, relating to representation, finance, 
and the establishment of a Bank of the United States, in which 
attempts were made to bring the States nearer to consolidation, 
or to increase the powers of the central government. 

President Adams was an adherent of the National party, and 
under his administration attempts were made to confer new 
powers on the President and Congress. The " Alien and Sedi 
tion Acts" empowered the President to banish foreigners with 
out trial, and laid heavy penalties on persons who, by speech or 
writing, should defame either the President or Congress. Against 
these measures, as gross violations of the rights of the States 
and the liberties of the citizen, the Legislatures of Virginia and 
Kentucky protested in their celebrated Resolutions of 1798 and 
1799, but without immediate effect, though the agitation which 
they produced contributed largely to the political revolution 
which placed Jefferson in the Presidency. 

This election was a triumph of the Strict-Constructionist, 
States-Rights or Democratic party, and during the administra- 



118 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

tion of Jefferson it preserved its ascendancy. Madison, who 
succeeded him, had at one time been a leader of the Nationalists, 
but had since become an upholder of the views of Jefferson, and 
had supported them in his able Report to the Virginia Legisla 
ture in 1799. 

During Madison s administration, which lasted for eight years, 
events occurred which changed the position of the great parties. 
The hostile acts of France led to the Embargo Act of 1807, and 
the conduct of England brought on the war of 1812. Now, as 
we have seen, the Eastern States were largely interested in com 
merce, which suffered greatly by the war, and by the preliminary 
state of non-intercourse. But the war was popular with the 
Southern and Western States ; and New England found herself 
in the position of a minority. Instantly there was a complete 
reversal of her views, and she began to shelter herself behind 
the shield of the Constitution. Instead of a " liberal/ 7 she now 
demanded a " strict construction" of that instrument ; and in 
the Hartford Convention vehemently appealed to the sovereignty 
and reserved rights of the States, and even looked to a secession 
from the Union as a last resort, a measure which was rendered 
unnecessary by the conclusion of peace with Great Britain. The 
alliance of the Western States with the South, to which they 
were naturally inclined by community of interest, filled her with 
apprehensions ; and from this time it has been the steady policy 
of New England to keep the Western States under her influ 
ence and tutelage, and to estrange them from the South ; to 
foster the growth of the Northwest territory, out of which non- 
slaveholding States could be formed ; and, as far as possible, to 
hinder the natural growth of the Southwest, the accession of new 
States from which would have tended to restore the balance of 
power. 

Thus, the proposed acquisition of Louisiana met with violent 
opposition from some of the Eastern members in Congress. As 
usual in such cases, they took high ground of strict construction 
and State-rights. Their ablest orator, Mr. Quincy, of Massa 
chusetts, declared that the measure would result in changing the 
relative proportions of power between the existing States, a 
thing unconstitutional and not to be borne; that it was a "usur- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. H9 

pation dissolving the obligations of our national compact;" and 
that, a if this Bill passes, the bonds of the Union are virtually 
dissolved ; that the States which compose it are free from their 
moral obligations ; and, as it will be the right of all, so it will be 
the duty of some, definitely to prepare for a separation, amicably 
if they can, forcibly if they must." These remarks having been 
pronounced out of order by the Speaker, the majority of the 
House reversed the decision and declared them in order. Mr. 
Quincy thanked God that he and his constituents " held their 
lives, liberty, and property by a better tenure than any this 
National Government could give, by the laws, customs, and 
principles of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 77 

These incidents show how broad principles of general policy 
were being ever more and more subordinated to sectional inter 
ests. So long as New England found herself in the majority, 
she favored the increase of the powers of the Federal Govern 
ment, which that majority would control. Whenever, from a 
coalition of part of the Northern States with the South, she 
found herself in a minority, she at once became strict construc- 
tionist, and fell back on the reserved rights of the States, even 
to the point of openly threatening secession. 

These crises were causes of real and well-grounded alarm to 
New England. As the tariff, which from a simple source of 
revenue had become a system of protection intended to enrich 
the manufacturing interest at the expense of the agricultural, 
the control of commerce, navigation, etc., were of vital impor 
tance to this section, it regarded the prospect of falling into a per 
manent minority as little less than ruin. And this state of things 
would inevitably occur whenever the agricultural States of the 
Northwest should be drawn by community of interests into a 
community of policy with the South. Hence the necessity of 
attaching them to herself by some common point in which the 
West agreed with the New England States and differed from 
the South. In truth, the slave-system of the South was not an 
injury, but a source of great benefits to the North, for to it was 
due the wealth of which so large a part flowed into Northern 
coffers under the operation of the tariff; and hence the doctrines 
of those who proposed its entire abolition met for many years 



120 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

with but little favor. The Southern States then existing were 
not feared, and the North would have been glad to see them 
prospering in any way that did not involve an increase of polit 
ical power; nor were theirs conscientious scruples regarding the 
rightfulness of slavery. Both these points were illustrated in the 
desire of the Eastern States, in the Convention of 1787, to con 
tinue indefinitely the African slave-trade. But their aim was to 
hinder, as far as possible, increase of the number of Southern 
States, and to establish a line of demarcation, both geographically 
and politically, between the North and the South. This mode of 
procedure had several advantages : it was an attempt to curtail 
the rights of the States, which the North, so long as she was in 
the majority, was ever disposed to invade; and it was a senti 
mental question, on which feeling and fanaticism could be 
aroused, far more effective instruments of agitation than the 
cool reasonings of political economy. 

In 181920 this policy was brought into action. In the 
former year Missouri applied for admission as a State. The 
lower House refused to admit her without the addition of a 
clause to her Constitution abolishing slavery. From this the 
Senate, where the Strict-Construction ists had a majority, dis 
agreed, on the ground that such a restriction was unconstitutional, 
and in violation of the terms of the treaty by which the great 
territory of which Missouri formed a part had been purchased 
from France, in which treaty it was stipulated that the existing 
and future occupants of that territory should retain, under the 
United States, all the rights that they enjoyed under the govern 
ment of France. So the bill was lost for want of agreement 
between the two Houses. In the next session the application 
was renewed ; and this time Maine also was applying for admis 
sion. The Senate proposed to include both in one bill, with no 
restrictive clause on either, but this the House would not agree 
to. At last, as a compromise, it was proposed to disconnect the 
two bills : to pass the Maine Bill as first offered, and to attach 
to the Missouri Bill an amendment providing that in the future 
slavery should be forever prohibited in all the rest of the terri 
tory acquired from France by the Louisiana treaty lying north 
of 36 30 N. latitude. This compromise, although considered 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 121 

by some unconstitutional, and in direct violation of the treaty 
with France, finally passed both Houses ; and under it Maine 
was at once admitted, the line of 36 30 being at the same time 
established. 

This was in March, 1820. In the following December, at 
the opening of the session, the Representatives from Missouri 
presented themselves, and were refused admission unless that 
State would abolish slavery, even Maine voting against keeping 
the compact under which she had herself been admitted. But 
the feature of that arrangement by which the North gained, the 
prohibition of slavery north of 36 30 , she refused to abandon, 
even when appealed to ; thus retaining the purchase-money and 
at the same time withholding the article purchased. It is this 
establishment of the line of 36 30 that is usually meant by 
the "Missouri Compromise" ; a double misnomer. It was not 
a compromise, but only one-half of a compromise, the equivalent 
half being withheld ; and under it not Missouri, but Maine, was 
admitted. 

These proceedings naturally created much excitement through 
out the country. The Democratic party at the North saw that 
the antagonism between the sections had been made the pretext for 
a violation of the Constitution ; that an invasion of the rights of 
the States had already been accomplished ; and it took the alarm. 
A pressure was brought to bear upon some members of the 
House which rendered them desirous to change their action at 
the next session, if any means of doing so creditably were offered 
them. At this juncture Mr. Clay came to the rescue. There 
was in the Constitution of Missouri a clause prohibiting the 
immigration of free blacks, which was objected to as unconstitu 
tional. Mr. Clay offered a resolution that the State should be 
admitted if she would rescind the obnoxious clause. The meas 
ure was superfluous, inasmuch as the clause, if contrary to the 
Constitution, was of itself a nullity ; but it afforded precisely 
the loop-hole wanted. Members could now justify their votes 
on the ground of devotion to the Constitution, and appear con 
sistent while they yielded to the wishes of their constituents. 
Mr. Clay s resolution was adopted, and Missouri, upon amending 
her Constitution as required, was admitted as a State in 1821. 



122 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

This settlement quieted matters for the time ; but it was a decided 
advantage gained by the Consolidationists, as it yielded to the 
Federal Government power to legislate in advance for future 
States in matters over which they alone rightfully had control, 
thus overstepping its constitutional limitations. 

Two other questions soon arose to agitate the country. One 
was as to the policy of authorizing the Federal Government 
to apply a part of the surplus revenue to the making of roads, 
improving the navigation of rivers, etc., or what were called 
"Internal Improvements" in the several States. The main 
objections to this policy were, that it was another step toward 
enlarging the powers of the Federal Government, and an inter 
ference with the rights of the States ; that it dangerously in 
creased Federal patronage and influence, and that it put it intc 
the power of Congress to favor some States at the expense of 
others, apprehensions which were all conspicuously justified by 
events. 

The other question was that of the Tariff. The necessary 
revenue of the Federal Government was raised by duties upon 
imports, a system more convenient of management and -less 
objectionable to the people than the juster but universally dis 
liked plan of direct taxation ; and so far as it was employed 
simply for revenue purposes, this plan worked sufficiently well. 
But the public debt created by the war of 1812 made a large 
increase of revenue necessary, which was provided for by in 
creasing the duties. These increased duties on foreign goods, 
enabling American manufacturers to raise their prices to the 
extent of the duty, largely increased the wealth of the manu 
facturing interest, now very important in the Eastern States. 
To this system they gave the propitiatory name of " Protection" ; 
and having once tasted the sweets of it, they increased their 
demands, placing them on the patriotic grounds that it was 
for the advantage of the country that American manufactures 
should be cherished, even though the result proved, as was con 
tended, that the expense was chiefly borne by one section, and 
the profit all accrued to the other. So the Fishing Bounties, 
another device for taxing the whole country for the benefit of 
New England, were defended on the ground that the fisheries 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 123 

were "a nursery of American seamen." In the tariff of 1824 
these protective duties were increased ; but it was accepted by 
the South, trusting that when the public debt was extinguished 
the policy would be abandoned. In 1828 the protective duties 
were again largely increased, and much agitation arose in the 
Southern States, as it was evident that the appetite of the manu 
facturing interests increased in proportion as it was fed. 
- In 1831, President Jackson announced to Congress that the 
public debt was nearly paid, and recommended the reduction of 
the tariff to a revenue-point. Congress replied by taking off 
duties on articles not affecting the manufacturing interest, but 
retaining the rest ; thus showing a determination to fasten the 
protective policy on the country. Great excitement followed, 
and the Legislature of South Carolina called^ a convention of 
the people of that State in November, 1832, to consider what 
was to be done. At this convention an ordinance was passed 
declaring that these Tariff Acts were unconstitutional and void ; 
forbidding any attempt to carry them out in the State, and 
threatening withdrawal from the Union if the Federal Govern- 
metit undertook to enforce them. A collision between the Fed 
eral and State authorities seemed imminent. President Jackson 
issued a proclamation declaring that he would do his duty in 
enforcing the laws; but admitting that injustice had been done 
the State, and appealing to them to seek redress in the ways 
constitutionally provided. The Legislature of Virginia requested 
the authorities of South Carolina to suspend their action until 
the close of the existing session of Congress, and appealed to 
Congress to modify the obnoxious acts. Mr. Clay immediately 
introduced in Congress a bill providing for a gradual reduction 
of duties, and the abandonment of the protective system, which 
passed on March 2d, 1833, and on the 15th of the same month 
South Carolina rescinded her Ordinance of Nullification. 

The peculiarity of this doctrine of nullification lay in the 
position that the State courts were competent judges of the con 
stitutionality of a law of the United States, which might there 
fore be abrogated in one State while held valid in all the rest. 
It was this position that General Jackson resisted, declaring that 
no State could remain in the Union and refuse to obey the 



124 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Federal laws. The right of secession from the Union was not 
brought into question. 

We have thus cursorily sketched the great fundamental ques 
tions which have been the sources of political division in this 
country, and the most important crises to which they gave rise, 
down to the time of Mr. Stephens s appearance in the arena of 
politics. Had the two questions at any time coalesced into one 
had the North been all National, or for Federal aggrandize 
ment, and the South all Democrat, or for Federal restriction 
the union of the States would soon have come to an end. But 
the fact that there were two questions instead of one that there 
was a large and important body of Democrats at the North, and 
one of Whigs at the South made the division general and not 
sectional; and by the lapping-over, so to speak, of parties, kept 
the States together. 

It is true that between Northern and Southern Democrats, and 
between Northern and Southern Whigs, there was not absolute 
identity ; but there was a sufficient agreement on main princi 
ples to enable them to act in harmony. Thus the Democrats of 
both North and South, agreeing on fundamentals, were enabled 
for many years to maintain a majority in the Federal Legisla 
ture. This perfectly legitimate action was what came to be 
called in after-years, when the Abolition party had gained im 
portance and conspicuousness disproportioned to its numbers, 
and when the element of abuse had come to be a prominent 
feature in political discussion, " the domination of the slavo- 
cracy," and " the North crouching beneath the crack of the 
slave-driver s whip." In point of fact, the South was always 
in the minority and would have been overridden by the North, 
but for the fact that a large Northern party believed that the 
chief political doctrines held by the majority at the South were 
those most conducive to the liberty and prosperity of the whole 
country. 

These preliminary remarks will give an idea of the general 
drift of politics and the position of parties up to the time when 
Mr. Stephens embarked in public life. 



CHAPTER XII. 

Mr. Stephens elected to the State Legislature Speech on the Kailroad Bill 
Letter of Hon. I. L. Harris Severe Illness Controversy with Dr. Mer 
cer Ee-election Voyage to Boston Letters to Linton Stephens Visits 
to New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland Tries the White Sulphur 
Springs with Advantage Friendship for Mr. Toombs. 

IN the autumn of 1836 Mr. Stephens became a candidate for 
the State Legislature. The citizens of Taliaferro County, though 
nearly unanimous in the matter of State or general politics, were 
divided into two local parties by the rival claims of two influen 
tial families. With both of these Mr. Stephens was on friendly 
terms ; but his avowed preference for one of the candidates for 
the State Senate excited the hostility of the friends of the other ; 
and. he thus, against his will, became identified with what was 
called the " Brown," in opposition to the " Janes" party, which 
had hitherto been in the ascendant. From the latter party he 
met with strong opposition, and the contest which ensued was 
sharp. On several points his views were not in entire agreement 
with the prevailing sentiment of the people. He had taken 
ground against the doctrine of nullification, holding that while 
a State had a perfect right to withdraw from the Federal com 
pact if she believed it violated, she could not remain in the 
Union and refuse to obey the Federal laws. 

Another ground of opposition to him was found in the strong 
position he took against the formation of a Vigilance Committee 
to punish persons found circulating what were termed " incen 
diary" documents among the slaves, or instigating them to flight 
or deeds of violence. The occasion for such committees was 
brought about by the practices of the Abolitionists, who had 
been for years attempting by means of secret emissaries to excite 
discontent, insubordination, and revolt among the slaves; and 
the citizens of the South, growing indignant, had in many cases 

125 



126 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

resolved to visit these instigators of crime with summary pun 
ishment at the hands of Vigilance Committees. To this unlaw 
ful course Mr. Stephens was opposed, desiring to see no remedies 
resorted to that were not provided by the regular means of jus 
tice. This brought upon him the charge of being an opponent 
of African slavery. He, however, defended his course, and ex 
plained his position on the subject so satisfactorily as to gain 
the election by a vote more than double that of his highest 
competitor. 

These were times when the best and ablest men were not, as 
of late years, averse to entering the General Assembly ; and it 
is not often that a larger number of such men have been assem 
bled in any State Legislature than were now in this. Mr. Ste 
phens, however, was an invalid during almost the entire session, 
having been prostrated by severe fever from August 22d to a 
few days previous to the election in October, and he was long 
in recovering from the effects of this attack. While in the 
House he took but little part in the transaction of business, but 
devoted himself to studying the men and things around him. 
He had seen upon how shallow and fleeting a foundation mere 
verbal eloquence rests when not built upon sound judgment and 
clear knowledge of the subjects at issue; and he refrained from 
speaking until an occasion should offer when he could speak 
from knowledge and conviction. 

This occasion presented itself in the debate on the bill for the 
construction of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. Such was 
the ignorance on this subject at the time, that the friends of the 
measure had little hope of its success. But there were, both in 
the Legislature and out of it, men who were able to see the vast 
importance of the work ; and of all these perhaps the man most 
thoroughly informed was Dr. Foster, who had already crammed 
his young friend Stephens with all the information that could 
be obtained. With the view to bring as much outside pressure 
as possible upon the Legislature, the friends of the enterprise 
held a convention in Macon, just before the session, to which 
Dr. Foster was a delegate. There was much enthusiasm in the 
deliberations ; resolutions were passed in favor of the road, and 
a committee of the ablest men in the State appointed to memo- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 127 

rialize the Legislature on the subject. Dr. Foster returned by 
way of Milledgeville, and spent some time with Mr. Stephens, 
urging him to support the measure, and furnishing him with 
new facts and arguments. 

The debate began. Speeches had been made on both sides, 
and the friends of the measure looked upon their case as hope 
less, when Mr. Stephens, whom few of the members knew, arose 
and made his first speech. It was a triumph. He was the first 
to point out w r hat all had overlooked, the enhancement in value 
which would result to the property on both sides the road. 
This opened entirely new views of prosperity to those who had 
thought only of the traffic and travel. Men were amazed to see 
how great an amount of information on the subject so young a 
man had acquired, and how enlarged were the views he took 
of the ultimate results of the measure. This speech not only 
carried the bill, but placed him at once in the foremost rank 
of orators and debaters in the State. 

Mr. Stephens has lived to see the road and the system which 
he advocated become the grand source of prosperity to his native 
State ; and he has seen the day, in the times which followed the 
war, when these roads were almost her only salvation from 
financial ruin. 

An extract from a letter written twenty years later by the 
Hon. Iverson L. Harris (afterwards Judge of the Supreme Court 
of Georgia) to Professor Williams Rutherford, of the Georgia 
University, gives some interesting reminiscences of this speech. 
Mr. Harris says : 

" The debate lingered for days, and when every one was worn down and 
tired of the name of Main Trunk, from under the gallery a clear shrill 
voice, unlike that of any man of my acquaintance, was heard saying, 
Mr. Speaker r 

" Every eye was turned to the thin, attenuated form of a mere boy, with 
a black gleaming eye and cadaverous face. The attention became breath 
less, the House was enchained for half an hour by a new speaker, and one 
with new views of the question, such as had not been discussed or hinted 
at by others. 

" When he sat down there was a burst of applause from a full gallery, 
and many of us on the floor joined in the chorus. That speech was elec 
trical ! It gave life to a dull debate, it aided immensely in the passage of 



128 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

the bill for the survey of the road, and the appropriation for it. It was 
the first and maiden speech in the Legislature of that gentleman. From 
that hour he has been a man of mark, and now he is recognized in the 
House of Representatives at Washington as its foremost man. 
" Need I say that man was Alexander II. Stephens." 

By this time Mr. Stephens had acquired a good practice, and 
was taking rank with the foremost men of the circuit. The 
problem of success was already solved, so far as it depended 
upon his intellectual and moral capacities. But the enemy 
which came with him into the world and had never left him, now 
beset him more fiercely than ever. As he began riding the cir 
cuit in the spring of 1837, he was stricken down with illness 
and confined to his bed for months. Weak at the best, when 
prostrated by sickness he was a piteous spectacle of utter help 
lessness and suffering; and for weeks there seemed not a shadow 
of hope of his recovery. Even when convalescence began, many 
more weeks elapsed before he could walk alone ; and he used to 
be lifted from his bed and placed upon the floor that he might 
crawl about a little, though he could not stand. In July he was 
sufficiently recovered to venture on a journey of easy stages ; 
and by the advice of his physician his brother, Aaron Grier, 
took him to the mountains. They went first in a buggy to 
Clarksville, then to the Naucochee valley, then to Gainesville 
and the adjacent springs, and thence to the Indian Springs, 
returning home in September. 

It was during this journey that a warm controversy arose be 
tween him and Dr. Leonidas B. Mercer, the leading man of the 
Janes party, which had opposed Mr. Stephens so strongly. These 
two men became very friendly in later times, and no trace re 
mained of any feeling engendered by the acrimony of their old 
contest. The affair, as has already been mentioned, grew out 
of a misunderstanding of some expressions which Mr. Stephens 
had used in reference to the Proclamation and Force Bill of 
President Jackson. Dr. Mercer had confounded the Protest 
with the Proclamation aimed at the action of South Carolina in 
1832, the former of which Mr. Stephens justified, but did not 
approve the latter. In the discussion Mr. Stephens showed 
clearly that he had been misunderstood ; and the people of his 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II, STEPHENS. 

county adhered the more closely and firmly to him. Notwith 
standing his weakness, he conducted this controversy with sur 
prising vigor and spirit. No one, reading his pamphlets, could 
imagine that they were written by an invalid, almost prostrated 
by physical debility, and at a time when death seemed almost at 
the door. The result was that he was returned without opposi 
tion in 1837. 

In the year 1838, his general health not having improved, he 
was advised to try a sea-voyage. He first went to Boston. On 
the 25th day of May he passed in view of Fort Warren. What 
would he have felt if he could have foreseen that on the same 
day, twenty-seven years later, for his firm adherence to the great 
principles on which our liberty depends, and his fearless exer 
cise of what was once vaunted as the birthright of every American 
citizen, liberty of political speech and action, he would be sent 
there as a prisoner to be immured in a cell ! The phenomenon 
of a Seward with his "little bell" had never at that time entered 
men s minds as a conceivable possibility in their wildest imagin 
ings. But great as would have been his astonishment at such a 
vision of the future, it could not have been greater than that 
caused by the knowledge that his life would be prolonged to 
that extent. 

Before taking this voyage he went to Washington. We have 
a letter written from that city to his younger brother Linton, 
then not quite fourteen years old (whose guardianship he had 
assumed a few months before leaving home), from which we 
make the following extracts : 

" Be true to yourself now, in the days of your youth. Improve your 
mind; apply yourself to your books: and when I am silent in the grave 
you may then be treading the floors now presented to my eye, honored 
with office of the highest rank. Always look up ; think of nothing but 
objects of the highest ambition which can be compassed by energy, virtue, 
and strict morality, with a reliance upon a holy, pure, and all-ruling 
Providence. But never forget your dependence and mortality. Let them 
be your morning and evening musings ; and in all things do nothing on 
which you could not invoke the divine blessing." 

On June 4th, he writes from Keene, New Hampshire : 

" I have a great deal of anxiety of mind about you. No day passes but 
you are in my mind ; and you do not escape from my dreams by night. 

9 



130 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Sometimes I fear I did not counsel you enough before leaving home. Only 
one thing I neglected : that was to advise you what to do in case you and 

Mr. [his teacher] do not agree. In such case, I want you to quit 

instanter and await my return. I do not intend that you shall be abused 
or trodden upon by any mortal. ... In all your dealings give offence to 
no one, and be you the subject of no man s offence. . . . But if a crisis 
comes, show that you are a man, and have a spirit that never cowers ; and 
if any wretch pulls your nose or ears, asking who are youT tell him that 
you are a freeman s son, and be sure you do honor to his blood. But 
never condescend to notice small offences. Be above them." 

In his letter of June 30th, from Saratoga Springs, he is afraid 

he spoke too unadvisedly about Mr. , and adds a word of 

caution. He then falls into some remarks about human life : 

" Our sojourn here is uncertain, and every day should be spent as if our 
last. Readiness for that event is our great business here. ... In all our 
letters and conversations with each other, it should be a main object to be 
imparting such information as would afterwards be desirable and useful in 
case of a sudden departure." 

It is his own departure that he has in view; but he phrases it 
in this general w T ay to be less painful to his brother, while at the 
same time it is a kind of apology for filling his letters with so 
much advice. Not knowing how soon he may be called away, 
he is anxious, while life is yet spared him, to give all the counsel 
he may to the boy-brother to whom he fills a father s place, and 
to leave him, if he can, a man in thoughts and feelings, though 
a boy in years. 

His health, instead of improving, grew worse. He visited 
Saratoga Springs, Carlisle Sulphur Springs in Pennsylvania, 
and finally reached Baltimore. Despairing of recovery, he 
was about to return home in the full expectation of speedy 
death, when he happened to meet Mr. John Crowell, of Ala 
bama, who urged him to try the Greenbrier White Sulphur 
Springs, of Virginia, to which he was himself going, most 
kindly proposing that they should travel in company, and he 
would take care of him on the way. He complied with this 
friendly proposition. He remained at the Springs three weeks, 
contrary to his expectation, found great benefit from the waters, 
and returning home, continued to improve all the next fall and 
winter. He was agaii returned to the Legislature, without 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

opposition, and was one of the most prominent members of the 
House. 

During his absence his business was attended to by his devoted 
friend, Mr. Toombs, and his brother Grier; the former carrying 
the cases through the courts, and the latter entering the judg 
ments and doing the collections. Grier had left Augusta finally 
when he came to his brother while sick with his first attack in 
1837, and remained with him ever afterwards, attending to the 
out-door business of his office, for which he was well qualified. 
Mr. Toombs proposed to Mr. Stephens to leave, during his ab 
sence, all business in his hands, and generously offered to bear 
his expenses ; which latter offer was, however, declined, as with 
economy it was not necessary. The offer of service was accepted, 
and the work punctually and efficiently done. This friendship 
was a beautiful union between this weak and this strong man, 
equals in intellect and in culture, but the one as exuberant in 
health and vigor as the other was frail and infirm. On the sole 
occasion when they were divided, it was a pleasing and interest 
ing sight to mark how they avoided open antagonism of their 
powers, and to note the consideration which each exhibited for 
the friendship of long years. They were soon reunited, and were 
companions in the struggle for the success of the Southern cause 
when that crisis came, and in the sufferings that followed its 
overthrow. 



CHAPTEE XIII. 

Improved Health Delegate to Southern Commercial Convention Answer 
to Mr. Preston " My Son" Linton at the University Fourth of July 
Celebrations in Auld Lang Syne Grand Doings at Crawfordville A 
Speech " Caesar and Pompey" Independence of Party The Whigs 
Uncertainty of the State-Eights Party Re-election to the Legislature. 

IN the year 1839, Mr. Stephens was able to give much more 
attention to his profession. His health, though still feeble, had 
been so far restored by the efficacy of the Virginia Springs, 
that he was in far better condition than during the two pre 
ceding years. 

In April he was a delegate to the Southern Commercial Con 
vention that was to meet in Charleston. Though well and widely 
known in his native State, his reputation had not yet extended 
beyond it. In the time we are speaking of, conventions of this 
kind were usually composed of, and attended by, the men of 
highest talent and character in their respective districts. In this 
one especially, the men of chief intellectual and social rank that 
South Carolina could boast were present to do honor to the 
representatives of the other Southern States. 

On the question as to what was the best point for establishing 
direct trade between Europe and the South, the States of Geor 
gia and South Carolina as was unfortunately the case on many 
important issues were at variance. In the debates, the Caro 
linians, among whom were more able speakers than in the dele 
gation from any other State, seemed to have the decision of this 
question entirely within their control. The eloquent Hayne had 
spoken, and Hamilton, and finally Preston, the most brilliant 
orator of the State, had seemed to close the door to all further 
discussion. It was then that Mr. Stephens, to the surprise of 
his colleagues, and the amazement of all who then observed him 
for the first time, rose and answered Mr. Preston. 
132 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 133 

It was amusing to watch the incredulous astonishment, as of 
men who could not believe their own eyes, with which the 
spectators gazed at the extraordinary spectacle of one who 
seemed a puny youth, not yet grown to man s estate, entering 
the lists with the foremost orators and debaters of the South, 
and matching them in the contest. This speech was generally 
considered a triumphant vindication of Georgia s side of the 
question ; and long before it closed the speaker was recognized 
as one destined to take his place among the foremost intellects 
of the country. 

A short time before this speech was delivered, and before the 
form and appearance of Mr. Stephens were generally known, 
an incident occurred which shows how extremely youthful he 
then looked. He was reclining on a lounge at the hotel, en 
gaged in conversation with a group of gentlemen who had 
gathered round, when the proprietor, seeing a whole lounge 
taken up by what seemed a mere stripling, while men were 
standing round, approached him with the mild rebuke, "My 
son, don t take up the whole lounge ; let these gentlemen be 
seated." Mr. Stephens arose at once, but a general guffaw fol 
lowed, and an explanation and apology from the surprised and 
abashed proprietor. One of the guests was Thomas Chaffin, 
the leading merchant and wag of Crawfordville, who took 
especial delight, on his return, in enacting the scene, with all 
his dramatic powers, to his fellow-townsmen. 

In the summer of this year his younger brother, Linton, 
entered the State University ; and it is interesting to mark in 
the correspondence the absorbing attention with which his career 
was watched by the elder. No fondest father ever showed 
more tenderness, more though tfiilhess, more loving solicitude. 
The large sheets of paper are crowded on all sides with counsel, 
with warning, with words of affection, with the inmost thoughts 
of the writer s heart. In the first letter of this period, bearing 
date August 8th, 1839, the four pages are so covered with close 
handwriting that barely space is left for the address, envelopes 
having not then been introduced. In this letter the writer says 
that he scarcely slept the night after his brother s departure, 
and inquires about everything; how he liked the country; who 



134 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

preached the Commencement sermon, how he liked that ; how 
many boys were in his class ; what professor examined him, 
in what book, at what passage ; how many questions he missed, 
was he much scared; how he liked the college buildings, the 
botanical gardens, etc. Then follows advice, suggestions about 
getting rooms, considerations whether he and John Bird (Lin- 
ton s but not Alexander s cousin, who goes under Alexander s 
patronage) had better room together or separately. He urges 
him not to be idle, even though he should find that without 
occupying all his time he can head his class ; and exhorts him 
to read on a plan which he suggests, and to keep a note-book, 
and to write to him his opinions about persons and events. And 
so he fills every side of the sheet; then crowds an after-thought 
into a corner : " Do not get into the habit of saying Church/ 
1 Ward, etc., but say <Dr. Church, Dr. Ward, etc. Attend to 
this." The sheet is now crammed, and not a word about the 
weather; so he crosses it with, a The heaviest rain for twelve 
months. The cloud was a small one, and came from the west 
on this (Thursday) evening." 

On the Fourth of July of this year there was a great cele 
bration at Crawfordville. It is remarkable what a change the 
third part of a century which has brought so many changes 
has wrought in the ardor with which this anniversary used to 
be celebrated, when men felt conscious and proud of their 
freedom. It is an inspiring thing yet to remember the 
droves of hogs and sheep, the countless multitudes of turkeys, 
chickens, geese, and squirrels, the mountains of good cheer and 
the rivers of good drink that were brought together to the 
festival. Everybody, white and black, celebrated " Independ 
ence Day." Crawfordville was already famous for her achieve 
ments in this line, and on the particular occasion in hand did 
herself full justice. 

Mr. S. Fouche" made an oration, and Mr. Stephens read the 
Declaration. At the dinner toasts were drunk, of course, the 
regular list being prepared by a committee; and on this occasion 
the preparation fell chiefly upon Mr. Stephens. We quote a 
few, and append a portion of Mr. Stephens s speech as reported 
in a Milledgeville paper, principally to illustrate his political 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. ] 35 

sentiments at the time, and to show that he was not then iden 
tified with any party, and that when he sided with the Whigs 
in 1840, it was only a choice between what he considered two 
evils. 

Toast No. 3 was : " The President of the United States* An 
inheritance is easily gotten in the beginning, but the end thereof 
shall not be established." 5 This quotation from Scripture was 
received with three cheers. 

Toast No. 4 was: "George M. Troup, Georgia s favorite son, 
and her candidate for the next Presidency ;" greeted with nine 
cheers. 

Toast No. 8 might seem now to have been prophetic. The 
President was suspected of a disposition to increase the army ; 
but few men there that day perhaps none but the framer of 
the toast felt any apprehension on that score. It ran : " The 
Army and Navy of the United States. While on land and sea 
they guard our rights from foreign tyranny and domestic ag 
gression, may they ever continue amenable to the civil power 
of the laws ! thus preserving the lustre of their laurels and the 
confidence of their fellow-citizens." 

Toast No. 9 was : " The Constitution of the United States. The 
charter of the rights of the American people, emanating from a 
spirit of wisdom and conciliation. With a strict construction 
we hold and will defend it, the legacy of our heroic ancestors." 
This shows how decisively Mr. Stephens had at this time 
espoused the doctrine of strict construction. 

After the voluntary toasts had begun, Chesley Bristow, the 
old and respected clerk of the court, who was always fond of 
" little Aleck," as he called him, read or, as the dinner was 
now somewhat advanced, probably had read for him the 
following : 

" The Reader of the Declaration of Independence: Alexander 
H. Stephens, Taliaferro s native son. By the fearless discharge 
of his public duties he has done much, during our late legis 
lative conflicts, to obtain honors for himself and have the 
confidence and esteem of his constituents." 

* Martin Van Bnren. 



136 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

"After the cheering had subsided," says the Recorder, "Mr. Stephens 
arose in response. . . . He dwelt at length upon the history, character, posi 
tion, principles, and objects of the Whig and the Administration parties, 
sparing neither, nothing extenuating, nor setting down aught in malice. 
While he held up the Whigs as embodying the reviving spirit of the old 
Nationals, he showed the leaders of the Administration party to be the 
wolves in sheep s clothing who have crept into the ranks of the Republicans, 
by which that party is now literally scattered abroad, without any concert 
of action or any common head, as sheep indeed without a shepherd. That 
they were the Judas-like traitors by whom, for the spoils of office, the Repub 
licans had been deceived and betrayed. They had been confided in by the 
people upon their professions of opposition to the Tariff, and when proved in 
person, were the first to attempt its enforcement at the point of the bayonet. 
They were among the loudest in their cry for retrenchment and reform, 
and promised the people, if entrusted with the power, to carry out these 
great measures, while they have increased the expenses of the Government 
from a little over eleven to nearly forty millions of dollars per annum! 
They were loud against a subsidized press and Executive interference with 
elections, while, since their promotion, they have taken the lead, far beyond 
all precedence, in those abuses, and openly defend and justify their course. 
They made common cause with .the State banks in demolishing the United 
States Bank, and then turned against them with the cry of divorce!* 
when their whole object was to divorce the public money from the banks, 
it is true, but to their own pockets. He was in favor of divorces some 
times, but not from one to another adulterous bed. That these leaders 
profess to be the only true Republicans and standards of Democracy, while 
many of their members are known to have been ultra-Federalists, and even 
Hartford Conventionists. They profess to be the only guardians of the 
people s rights, when they give the most important fiduciary trusts to 
notorious bankrupts in fame and in fortune, and for years ask not even a 
bond for the faithful discharge of their duty ; thus permitting their sub- 
treasurers to pocket for themselves, or spend for the benefit of the party, 
hundreds of thousands of the public funds, and then, after taking a gen 
tlemanly leave of the country, to spend the remainder of their days in 
splendor in foreign climes. They profess now to be the friends of the 
South, and only hope for the protection of our institutions, while many of 
them are the warm advocates of free negro suffrage, and their Magnus 
Apollo himself is a Missouri Restrictionist. That such a party, so marked 
with every badge of corruption, falsehood, and treachery, should be utterly 
spurned by a free people. He deprecated the day when we should be 
driven to the necessity the forced choice of appealing to such men foi 
the protection and salvation of our liberties. . . . That two parties are 

* "The divorce of Bank and State" was one of the catch-words of the 
Van Buren party. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 137 

now courting an alliance with our State ; and never was fair maiden more 
artfully allured by the wiles of seduction than was the integrity of the 
State now assailed by these political suitors. . . . The one is a known 
enemy, the other a traitor to our cause. It is no question upon which we 
should take sides or make any capitulations ; nor should we suffer ourselves 
as Georgians to be forced into a choice as between such evils. Either is 
death to our principles ; and we should uncompromisingly wage war 
again st~botB. Though we be in the minority, let us be the Spartan band. 
Self-defence is the first law of our nature, and the nearest enemy always 
first. After the extermination of the present occupant of the field, if 
another make his appearance, we can again rally to the onset. The price 
of liberty is not only eternal vigilance, but continual warfare; and if 
we are to have an executioner, for our own and for our country s sake, let 
us at least leave it for others to provide him ! The speaker concluded with 
this sentiment: i Henry Clay and Martin Van Bur en: candidates for the 
next Presidency. When the strife is between Caesar and Pompey, the 
patriot should rally to the standard of neither. (Much cheering.)" 

7 

We have given this extract a> considerable length, not only 
for its eloquence and scmnd policy^ but as clearly illustrating 
Mr. Stephens s position at the time. He has often been charged 
with abandoning u his party/ but the truth is that he has always 
been independent of party. We here see that he was at once 
hostile to the administration of Van Buren and opposed to the 
election of Clay. George M. Troup, the great Governor who 
had so effectually resisted the encroachments of Mr. Adams s 
administration and stood squarely upon the platform of State- 
rights, was his favorite ; and he was extremely anxious that this 
gentleman should receive the nomination. But Mr. Van Buren 
was the existing occupant of the chair; and if he could not get 
his favorite leader, Mr. Stephens had already made up his mind 
to follow any other who showed the ability to vanquish the 
administration. 

It was much the same state of things as in his pamphlet 
controversy of 1837. Not being a partisan, he approved such 
measures of President Jackson as he thought just, and con 
demned the others. In his eyes the President s dealing with 
the Un.ited States Bank was right, and deserved to have the 
approbation of the country. As for his Proclamation, Mr. 
Stephens saw much to condemn in it, and he utterly and with 
out reservation condemned the Force Bill. While he rejected 



138 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

as fallacious and inconsistent the doctrine of nullification, he 
firmly believed in the right of secession. But these distinctions 
close party-men could not see, or if they saw, did not approve; 
and thus Mr. Stephens has met the fate which attends every 
public man who pursues an independent course in politics, and 
judges every measure simply on its own merits, the fate of 
being charged with unfaithfulness to his party. So far from 
regretting this, however, it has always been a matter of pride 
to him, as demonstrating his consistent integrity of purpose. 

The sentiments expressed at the meeting, so far as that may 
be considered an exponent of the views of the South, showed 
that the South was not yet ready, even after the experience of 
Van Buren s administration, to give a hearty support to Clay. 
The opposition was in a transition state, it is true, but it had 
not yet reached the point where it could accept, or even close its 
eyes to, the centralizing proclivities of the distinguished Ken- 
tuckian ; so the different sections of the party united upon Gen 
eral Harrison, unfortunate as was the necessity of fighting the 
administration under a leader of uncertain politics. This resolve 
taken, though the nominee of the South was far from being the 
leader whom Mr. Stephens would have preferred, he at once 
made his choice between the two, and brought into the campaign 
all the energy and talent of which he was master. 

In the fall of this year he was again a candidate for the Legis 
lature, and was soon drawn into animated controversy on the 
questions of the day. The State-Rights party was then divided 
on various points of general policy, but especially on the Na 
tional Bank and Tariff questions. Those who, whatever their 
objections to these measures, thought that the advantages derived 
from the Union more than counterbalanced them, and were 
willing to continue the existing state of things, took the name 
of Whigs. 

The Whig party, at the outset of the coming campaign, 
looked to Mr. Clay as their leader, and it was generally thought 
he would receive the nomination, but his views leaned rather 
more toward centralization than was acceptable to the South. 
Mr. Van Buren, the candidate of the Northern Democrats, had 
been unpopular at the South after his supposed intrigue in 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 139 

breaking up Jackson s cabinet in the first term of that Presi 
dent ; yet many of the leaders, even of the State-Rights party, 
began seriously to consider whether on the whole he was not a 
better candidate than Mr. Clay. Taliaferro County was almost 
unanimously of the Jeffersonian State-Rights party, and the 
candidates for the Legislature presented by this party there were 
two very intelligent gentlemen, Mr. Simpson Fouche and Dr. 
Lawrence, the former being an adherent of the nullification 
doctrine, who was now starting the discussion in advance, with 
the view of getting the State committed to Van Buren. The 
opposing candidates were Mr. Stephens and Mr. John Chapman. 

A spirited contest ensued, during which Mr. Fouche exerted 
all his energies to defeat Mr. Stephens and break down his 
rapidly-growing influence. This contest was rendered more 
animated by the fact that the State-Rights party was gradually 
shifting its ground ; and the voters were desirous to know the 
position which the candidates proposed to take in the succeeding 
Presidential election, and to learn their precise views on all the 
important questions of the day. A question of considerable 
prominence at the time was the Liquor License Law, one of the 
many attempts which from time to time are made, and always 
fruitlessly, to suppress social vice by legislation. 

The citizens of Fair Play, a village in the eastern section of 
the county, called upon the candidates to express their views on 
these various points openly, either by letter or public address; 
and to this end a public dinner was given at this place on the 
15th of August, at which the candidates and other public men 
were present, and there was some lively speaking, in the course 
of which Mr. Fouche let fall some sarcastic expressions which 
seemed to Mr. Stephens to have a personal bearing upon him 
self. A correspondence followed, which, for a while, seemed to 
threaten serious results, but finally the matter was amicably 
adjusted. At the election-day, notwithstanding a strong and 
active opposition, Messrs. Stephens and Chapman were elected 
by large majorities. Early in the next year Mr. Fouche took 
the field in person against Mr. Harris for the Senate, but was 
overwhelmingly defeated. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

Transition of the State-Eights Party Error of the Georgians Law Busi 
ness Letters to Linton Views on Scholarship, Aristocracy, and the 
Devil Literary Criticism Keligious Beliefs Visit to the Gold Kegion 
Political Parties. 

THE transition of the State-Rights party, leading to its co 
alition with the Northern Democrats, went on with increasing 
rapidity in the early part of 1840. An extract from a letter of 
Mr. Stephens, of a much later date, will show his views on the 
subject. 

" I was opposed to the administration of Mr. Van Buren, but was also 
opposed to the support of Harrison. I wanted the State-Rights party of 
Georgia to stand by the nomination of George M. Troup, which I had con 
siderably contributed in getting the men of that party in the Legislature 
of 1839 to make. But in the summer of 1840 a convention of the party 
was held at Milledgeville, assembling the first Monday in June ; and this 
convention withdrew the nomination of Troup and declared for Harrison. 
I was not in the convention. I acquiesced, though I thought it bad pol 
icy. There were but two candidates in the field, Harrison and Van Buren : 
I preferred Harrison as the choice of evils. Indeed, the greatest objection 
I had to Harrison s nomination was the political alliances it would bring 
about. Him I considered sound enough on all political and constitutional 
questions ; but his supporters generally at the North were the old Central 
ists and Consolidationists, known in 1800 as Federalists. Still, as all the 
vital questions were ignored, or nearly so, in the canvass, and as upon the 
financial questions of the day I agreed, in the main, with him and his sup 
porters, I acquiesced and supported him. It was, however, in my present 
opinion [1868], a great error. It was a political blunder on the part of the 
leaders and other men of the party. I was too young to be charged with 
even an error of judgment in going with them under the circumstances. 
Had I had more experience, I never should have done it." 

"We have not spoken much of Mr. Stephens s law business. 

He had for some time now been in full practice, and was counted 

one of the ablest lawyers of the State. The reputation he had 

acquired for not only personal but professional integrity, served 

140 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 141 

to give him an influence upon juries which was probably greater 
than that ever possessed by any lawyer in the State. Whenever 
he solemnly asserted his belief in any fact or principle, all men 
were assured of his sincerity, and therefore he always had the full 
benefit of his opinions. In Taliaferro County especially, none of 
his professional brethren ever approached him in this respect, ex 
cept perhaps Mr. Toombs, whose career was as high and manly 
throughout as that of any lawyer who ever lived. These two 
friends seemed always to desire to be associated whenever pos 
sible, and were seldom found engaged on opposing sides. Their 
friendship was of the sort which shunned even the possibility 
of a wound which might happen in the excitement of forensic 
antagonism. 

Perhaps their great dissimilarity was one link between them. 
One was prudent, patient, and persuasive ; the other ardent, im 
petuous, even apparently imperious. The one exposed his case 
in all its minutest bearings, and then persuaded the jury to find 
for the right. The other, seldom delaying on minor points, 
seized upon the most important, showed them the truth in a 
vivid light, and defied them to disregard it. Juries found for 
the one because he led them kindly but irresistibly to his con 
clusions; they found for the other because they could not endure 
his indignation. And when these men were both on one side, 
their client was as well defended as it was possible to be in any 
court of justice in the country. 

The letters which Mr. Stephens wrote to Linton while the 
latter was at college, give a pleasing view of his inner life. They 
are usually very long. He felt for his brother an affection more 
like that of a tender father for a beloved son than that which 
usually subsists between brothers. Few men have ever written 
to a single correspondent in the period of a long life as much as 
he wrote to this one brother during thirty years. This corre 
spondence would fill many volumes. We shall extract from them 
so much as we need to fill up the narrative of events or illus 
trate the character of the man. 

Linton s vacation being now over, he had returned to college. 
His brother s first letter was of January 26th, 1 840. A fter speak 
ing of family matters, which he usually gives in detail, even men- 



142 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

tioning the servants, their ailments or mishaps, he adverts to a 
young kinsman of theirs who was thinking of quitting school 
rather prematurely, and remarks : 

" Perhaps it is as well. The poet says : 

A little learning is a dangerous thing: 
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring. 

There is as much truth as satire in the couplet. To be a smatterer, to 
learn enough only to imbibe the errors of the world and to become puffed 
up and inflated with the conceit of self-importance, is no less ruinous to 
the unfortunate" subject than disgusting to. the whole circle of his equally 
unfortunate acquaintance. To be a scholar, to place oneself above the 
common level, to ascend the steep of science and climb the rugged cliff of 
fame, require energy, resolution, time, self-denial, patience, and ambition. 
These are not the qualities of a fickle brain, but the attributes of genius. 
He that possesses them, by disciplining them, and by subjecting them to 
mild obedience to his own master-spirit (and this is knowledge, the very 
perfection of education), can control not only his own destiny, but that of 
others." 

He closes thus : 

" Good-by, and let me hear of your doing well. Fortune is a web, and 
every man weaves for himself." 

The next letter is of February 2d, in answer to one just 
received. He praises the spirit of candor which he thinks he 
discovers in his ward : 

" There is no virtue in the human character nobler than candor, plain, 
real, unsophisticated candor. It is the legitimate offspring of truth, and 
always begets independence." 

Presently he adds a caution against excessive ambition. He 
has been encouraging his ward so persistently to aim high, to 
look forward to a career not only of virtue and usefulness, but 
of distinction, that he thinks perhaps a little counterpoise may 
be advisable. He quotes from Shakspeare, cites Byron s lines 
on Kirke White, and then illustrates from Bulwer the effects of 
inordinate ambition. This leads into a little talk about aris 
tocracy : 

"There is one kind of aristocracy that I despise equally with yourself; 
but another kind I greatly admire. The first is the aristocracy of wealth 
and fashion. That is contemptible. The other is the aristocracy (the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ariston kratos] of lionor, principle, good breeding, and education, that 
awards distinction, not to birth or fortune, but to merit and principles. 
This is the aristocracy of nature, and is cast by no hereditary descent, but 
is the impress given by fortune to her favorite children." 

Ill the next letter (February 28th) he has much to say about 
the doctrine of the Universal ists. AYe give an extract : 

u In regard to the doctrine of the Universalists you allude to in your 
letter, and particularly that part wherein you request my opinion, I will 
only say, without entering fully into the subject, that I do not agree with 
the belief that there is no personal devil or fallen spirit, and that what is 
commonly called the Devil is no more than the inclination of man to do 
evil. What I mean by a personal devil is an evil spirit or a spiritual 
intelligence apostate and fallen. There are doubtless many spiritual in- 
telligcncies besides the Deity. Some are pure and holy : others are of 
opposite nature, being evil, rebellious, and disobedient." 

And the letter continues with a further exposition of his views 
on dsemonology, dim regions into which we will not follow him. 
He comes back to firm ground after awhile, and concludes with 
an urgent recommendation of regular and sufficient bodily exer 
cise ; probably though he does not say as much a more effi 
cient exorcism against cacodsemons than is commonly supposed. 

On April 5th he tells his brother that the court is over, and 
though almost broken down by continual work, he is preparing 
to go to Warren Court. The wife of a neighbor has died the 
day before, and he moralizes on the balance of good and evil, 
happiness and misery, in the world, though acknowledging in 
all the arrangement and economy of a wise and merciful Provi 
dence. Then we have some literary criticism : Linton has 
mentioned that he has been reading The Last Days of Pompeii : 

" It is a work of great merit, though it hardly does justice to the early 
Christians. In that particular its greatest defect consists. I think Bulwer 
in one sense greatly Scott s superior in novel-writing. His mind is of a 
higher order : he is more profound and metaphysical, in a word, more 
Platonic, while Scott is easier, more descriptive, and can deal successfully 
with a much greater variety of characters. Scott s best characters that 
is, the best drawn are his lowest ; Bulwer s are his highest" 

The letter concludes by recommending as the next book of 
the kind to be read, Old Mortality, and this for the sake of 
getting acquainted with " Cuddie." 



144 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

On May 5th we find him approaching, very delicately, the sub 
ject of religion, elicited by an inquiry on the part of his brother. 
He speaks of the cultivation and chastisement of the affections 
and subjugation .of the natural propensities, bringing the entire 
nature into mild subjection to the benign and exalted principles 
of pure Christianity. 

" This is true religion : a change of heart from evil to good, a renewal 
of the soul from low and grovelling desires to an expanded and enlarged 
love for the universe and an unbounded reverence for its Author. To 
worship is the natural prompting after regeneration, that process by which, 
in a mysterious way, the depraved nature of fallen man is exchanged and 
purified by the exercise of a saving faith in Christ the Redeemer and 
Mediator." 

He presently concludes this topic, which he will not press too 
far just now, with the words : 

" The subject of religion I have seldom alluded to in my communications 
with you, either by word or letter. The principle on which I acted re 
quired me, I believe, to pursue such a course. Perhaps hereafter I may 
dwell more at large upon the subject." 

In his letter of June 2d he reverts to the subject, thus: 

11 1 never like to be a lecturer^ or to give advice, because I am so sensible 
of my own errors and imperfections 5 and this is why I have said so little 
to you on subjects of religion, morality, and piety. But I trust you will 
not think the less of them yourself, or be more remiss in your action. If 
I have said nothing, it is not because I feel nothing. I do hope, therefore, 
that you will not even trust yourself to your own judgment or caution, 
but ask assistance from one who is able to direct you, daily. I believe in 
a special Providence. Of all Christian virtues, cultivate humility, meek 
ness, and a spirit of dependence upon the great Ruler of the universe for 
every good and perfect gift. " . . , "The world is transitory at best, 
and there is little in it worth living for but the bright prospect it affords 
of a blessed immortality. Its hopes are delusive, its honors are vain, its 
pleasures are empty." 

Mr. Stephens then had scarcely an acquaintance who would 
not have been surprised to know that he thus spoke of spiritual 
and earthly things to his younger brother. While his whole 
conduct and deportment had always been consistent with the 
principles of a high and pure morality, few, even of his intimate 
friends, supposed that his inward thoughts were much occupied 
with the subject of religion. But when let behind the veil of 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 145 

his habitual reticence, through the medium of these most confi 
dential revealings of his hidden nature, we can see how much 
and how earnestly he has thought upon these solemn questions, 
how strong are his religious convictions, how deep is his rever 
ence for the Deity, and how absolute his belief of the importance 
of His constant interposition in man s behalf. 

There is now some intermission in these letters. The writer 
went on a tour with Mr. T. Chaffin to visit the gold mines of 
Cherokee, where the latter gentleman owned a number of -lots. 
The travellers examined the region, and came to the conclusion 
that it was very rich in minerals. They called upon an old 
friend, too, Dr. Foster, who had removed to this part of the 
country, and whom they found just recovering from a broken 
leg. A short note dropped in Athens on the return gives a flat 
tering account of Harrison s prospects in the Cherokee country. 

The Presidential contest was now narrowed down to the two 
candidates, Van Buren and Harrison. All the State-Rights 
delegation from Georgia in Congress, except Cooper, Colquitt, 
and Black, sided with the latter, and the whole party followed. 
Mr. Stephens, as we have seen, while not approving the nomi 
nation of Harrison, preferred him to his competitor, and having 
given him his support, went actively into the canvass. 

In his letter to Linton of August 2d, he treats the subject of 
politics at some length in reply to an inquiry. We extract : 

" In the beginning of the Government under the new organization, in 
1787 and 1788, all who were in favor of ratification of the Constitution, 
or were friendly to the compact or Foedus as it was called, assumed the name 
of Federalists. Those who opposed took the various names of Anti-Fed 
eralists. Democrats, Republicans, etc. At that time Madison and Jefferson 
were known as Federalists, or friends to the Constitution. Patrick Henry 
and many other noble sons of Virginia were opposed to it. After the 
Constitution, however, was ratified, and the Government went into opera 
tion, many measures were proposed which some of the friends of the 
Constitution thought were not authorized by that instrument, and which, 
if carried out, would centralize all power in the General Government to 
the subversion of the States. That class of course fell into the ranks of 
the Republicans. Among these were Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Madison, and 
many others, while Patrick Henry and others fell into the ranks of the 
Federals, saying that these powers of which the others were complaining 
were granted in the Constitution, and it was then too late to raise the 

10 



146 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

complaint ; that they had warned them of the danger, and foretold these 
consequences. It was now too late : the Constitution was established, and 
the country had to abide by it. Many of the measures of the Federalists 
of that time say from 1790 to 1800 were no doubt good ones, while 
others were truly obnoxious, particularly the one against Aliens, and one 
upon the subject of Sedition. It was those measures which showed a 
disposition on the part of the Federal party to the grasping of power that 
caused the overthrow of that party in 1800 by the election of Mr. Jefferson. 
. . . Considering the merits of even the most obnoxious measures of 
those days, apart from all party and personal bearing, just as you would 
look at the laws of ancient nations, I believe that there is not a great deal 
more to censure in them than in many of the laws we have had passed in 
much later times. The patriotism, however, of those men who were called 
Federalists, even at the election of Mr. Jefferson, no man can doubt. They 
were among the earliest and most devoted friends and movers of the Revo 
lution, and were the master-spirits that struggled for our independence. 
They were all no doubt friends to good government ; but differed, as men 
always will, as to the best methods and medium of administering it. It 
is true that Mr. Jefferson in his Ana (some notes in the end of his works) 
intimates that a large party then existed in the country favorable to a 
monarchy. But for my own part I do not believe one word of it. His 
aim was at Hamilton ; but he was, in point of intellect, integrity, and 
patriotism, high above all such suspicions. Jefferson even intimates 
openly, in one of his letters, that Washington was aspiring to a throne. 
With Hamilton s notions of government I do not agree; but that he was 
in favor of changing it to a kingly government, none, I think, would 
pretend to believe who knows anything of his opinions of the formation 
of the Constitution. He was truly a great man, but his theories did not 
suit the genius of our institutions." 

From this he passes to comment on something Linton has 
told him about some trouble Mr. Baker, with whom they are 
boarding, has had with his landlord, Apropos of which he quotes 
Burns a favorite poet of his, by the way. Then winds up 
with a dream : 

" I dreamed last night you were dead ; and, though no believer in 
dreams, have nevertheless all day been more or less under the influence 
of this strange phantom." 

Letters follow in which he criticises his brother s style in 
writing, gives him advice about his college duties, discusses the 
merits of Scott and Bulwer, and treats of other matters. He 
has been a candidate for the Legislature, having Dr. Lawrence 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 147 

again for an opponent, and on the 5th of October he gives the 
result of the election, in which he received 362 votes and the 
rival candidate 68. " I have never received so large a vote in 
the county before." 

It was in the fall of this year that Mr. Johnston first heard 
him speak in public. The Hon. Eugenius Nisbet being on a 
visit to Powelton, at the request of the citizens, addressed them 
on political topics. Mr. Stephens was one of his auditors, and 
when Mr. NisbeLhad concluded, he requested the latter to make 
some remarks. M\Ir. Stephens spoke for some time, with that 
persuasive earnestness, simple dignity, and charm of manner 
which have earned him such deserved celebrity as an oratorj 
His appearance differed in nothing from what it was in 1832. 
His physical development seemed to progress more tardily than 
other men s ; he had still the youthful looks of a mere stripling, 
and it was only about this time, though he had reached his 
thirtieth year, that he attained his full stature. 



CHAPTER XY. 

Declines Ke-nomination to the Legislature Letters to Linton Philosophy 
of Living Death of President Harrison Advice to Linton Serious Ill 
ness Election to State Senate Reports of Committees The Tariff of 
1842 Breach of the Compromise of 1833 Debate on Federal Relations 
The Minority Report Principles of the Georgia Whigs Resolutions. 

IN the year 1841 Mr. Stephens was less occupied with polit 
ical matters, having declined to run for the Legislature. His 
health improved to some degree, but his old enemy, dyspepsia, 
and .the excruciating headaches it occasioned, still tormented 
him. His time was entirely engaged in his legal business, of 
which he had all that he could possibly attend to. The biog 
raphy of this year, therefore, must be entirely drawn from his 
letters to his brother, who was still at college. 

On February 14th we find him moralizing on the uncertainty 
of human affairs and the vicissitudes of life ; a train of thought 
brought on by the death of his old friend, William Le Conte, 
a fact of which Linton had informed him. He says : 

" Remember me to Louis and Joseph Le Conte. I much sympathize 

with them in their late bereavement. Their brother was one of my most 

beloved and esteemed friends, \jllis departure is another evidence of the 

/fleeting and transient nature of all things connected with this life s hopes 

/ and expectations. J Little did I think last fall in Milledgeville, when I 

shook the hand that I had often shaken both in parting and greeting, 

that it was for the last time, and that our farewell was to be for ever ! 

What a mystery is death and life !" 

On March 25th he gives some lessons to his brother on the 
proper and profitable way of reading newspapers, then alludes 
to the will of an old gentleman who had recently died, leaving 
a large property to an only son, on which he thus philosophizes: 

" There is a philosophy in life and in the proper way of living that 
few seem to understand. Hence many who really are rich live worse 
148 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 149 

than some who are seemingly poor. These remarks I think peculiarly 

applicable to and his family. The whole aim of his life has been to 

accumulate and save without any regard to proper enjoyment. To accu 
mulate and save are both admirable actions-, but they should not be the 
ruling motives: they should be subservient to the great objects of life, 
usefulness, contentment, and happiness. Had he spent more in the edu 
cation of his only son, the enlightenment of his understanding and the 
refinement of his manners, and then left him much less of the properly, 
he would have acted a much better part by him. The great difficulty 
with mankind is in spending, in knowing how and when to spend their 
money." 

And then follows an earnest condemnation of the opposite 
vices of extreme parsimony and extravagance. 

From time to time Liu ton has applied to his brother for the 
explanation of various terms used in political parlance, which 
Alexander answers with extreme punctuality and minuteness. 
In this letter he remembers that his exposition of one phrase 
has not been, perhaps, so full as it should have been, anil am 
plifies on the subject : 

" In my remarks the other day about pre-emption," 1 I forgot to say that 
as a system it is opposed to what is termed the distribution plan, 1 which 
is .to have all the public lands sold at what they will bring, and the pro 
ceeds distributed among all the States. That is my plan : I go for distri 
bution. The land belongs to all the States, and every one should have its 
portion of the proceeds." 

Before the next letter (April llth) was written, a melancholy 
event had happened in the political world, in the death of Presi 
dent Harrison on the 4th of April, just one month after his 
inauguration. Mr. Stephens thus comments upon it: 

" There is no doubt that General Harrison is dead. What effect it will 
have upon the country time alone can disclose. I look upon it, however, 
as at this time one of the greatest calamities that could have befallen the 
nation. Harrison had the confidence of the people of all sections of the 
Union. /There was nothing sectional, partisan, or offensive to any portion 
of the pebple in his inaugural] The whole country was calm in quiet ex 
pectation of the measures to be proposed by him at the opening of the 
called session of Congress." [Extra session called for the last day of May.] 
" No other man living could have wielded such influence over public opinion 
as he could, because he had the confidence of the people. They believed 
him to be, as he was indeed, a patriot. I fear his death will give rise to 
dissensions and divisions." 



150 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H, STEPHENS. 

For more than half of the following year we have to draw 
entirely upon the correspondence with Linton. The earlier part 
is filled with home-news, explanations of the law-business he 
was engaged in, news from the farm, etc. One of the horses is 
rather wild, and he is taming him, and hopes soon to have him 
a as gentle as Frank Dougherty got his oxen." This Frank 
Dougherty, he explains, was an old neighbor of his father s, 
who once had a yoke of young and ungovernable oxen, which 
he was very anxious to sell to a neighbor, whose only objection 
was that they were not gentle enough. So Frank undertook to 
" gentle" them by keeping them in the yoke, and letting them 
run in the pasture. One day he brought the expected purchaser 
over to look at them, assuring him that they were now " perfectly 
gentle." They went down to the pasture and found the oxen 
" gentle" indeed : in their caperings they had turned the yoke, 
and lay there with their necks broken. So " as gentle as Frank 
Dougherty s oxen" became a joke in the neighborhood. 

In March we find him encouraging Linton in the study of 
rhetoric, which the latter finds difficult. 

"Rhetoric, properly taught, is one of the easiest and most improving 
and useful studies of a college course, and to me it was the most interest 
ing. But it requires some training to get in the right way of learning it. 
It is to be effected by system, method, and generalization. The usefulness 
of the study depends mostly upon its effect upon the mind in subjecting 
it to system and method, and the exercises it imposes upon the memory. 
It should never be taught or learned by questions and answers. You might 
as well attempt to teach the beauties of a painting to a mind unacquainted 
with the art of catching the perspective, by a similar system of interroga 
tories. In the study of rhetoric usefully, the mind must first be taught to 
put forth its strongest faculties, and survey the entire subject that is, the 
lecture for any given recitation. The author s object being thoroughly 
understood, his manner of treating it. and his various subdivisions, soon 
occur easily to the mind, which naturally again suggest his ideas, and 
then the task is performed, and the whole lecture is indelibly impressed 
upon the mind like a map or chart spread out before you. In mastering 
a lecture in rhetoric, the author s words should never be studied ; if they 
occur readity to the mind in reciting, they should be used ; but in study 
ing, the memory should not be taxed to retain them ; the ideas, and the 
order in which they come in the lecture, should be the task of the student. 
The ideas he should convey in his own words. For when he understands 
his author, and knows what his ideas are, the student can always have 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 15] 

words at command to make known what they are. But it is a remarkable 
fact, that with a little practice with this kind of study, so quick does the 
mernoiy become, and so retentive of an impression, that the student will 
be enabled to repeat almost the identical words of his author from begin 
ning to end. This strengthens the memory, and imparts vigor to the mind, 
and enables the faculties to encompass a whole subject at once, and under 
stand the whole and every part at the same time. This is exceedingly neces 
sary for writers and public speakers. When a student, therefore, goes to 
recite a lesson in rhetoric, or moral philosophy, or any such studies, he 
should know everything in his recitation, and be able forthwith and without 
hesitation to repeat, if called upon, every idea in it, just as he would toll, if 
called upon, what he heard a man say on any particular subject on a given 
occasion. As, for instance : suppose the lesson is in Blair, and the subject 
is his lecture on Style. 1 At the first glance the mind will scan his man 
ner of treating it, commencing with general remarks about the diversity 
of style in authors, then the various kinds of style, and then the rules for 
forming a correct style. Under the first head, many smaller and subordi 
nate ideas, where the general plan is fixed in the mind, naturally suggest 
themselves with little or no effort ; such as, that all authors have a pecu 
liarity of style distinctive in each ; difference between Livy and Tacitus, 
etc.. and other ideas that fill up that view 5 and the different kinds of style, 
such as concise and diffuse; then contrasted, the advantages and disadvan : 
tages of each, and the instances of authors distinguished for each, etc., 
which is all easily recollected and repeated, that is, the idea, but not the 
words. and the same of the weak and nervous, dry, plain, neat, elegant, 
and flowery, and then go on to the simple, affected, and vehement; these 
made all distinct in their order in the mind, the filling-up, or the remarks 
made upon each, come to the mind almost naturally ; and then comes the 
winding-up of the subject^ the directions for forming a correct style, to 
wit: a thorough understanding of the subject, frequent composition, ac 
quaintance witli good styles, or the styles of distinguished authors, not, 
however, running into imitation. oradaptation of the style to the subject 
and occasion, not to be poetical when you should reason ; and, lastly, not 
to permit the mind to be too much engrossed with style to the exclusion 
of matter ; in other words, that however important style may be, it should 
always be held subordinate to ideas, and that more attention should be 
given to thoughts and sentiments than mere style; and with this the task 
is performed. And what is more easy ? When once you get in the way 
of it, you will find it the easiest study learned. The mind will take it 
readily, and you will be astonished at the amount of learning you can 
acquire. To me, at first, it appeared very hard, because I had nobody to 
teach me ; but when Dr. Olin became professor and gave us a few lectures, 
the whole subject assumed a new appearance, and the study became de 
lightful ; and when I graduated, there was no subject in Blair, Paley, Say, 
Evidences of Christianity, Brown s Moral Philosophy, or Hedge s Logic, 



152 LIFE OF ALEXANDER //. STEPHENS. 

that I could not have told everything about instantly, or as fast as I could 
have spoken ; and I could have commenced at the beginning of the cata 
logue above named, and have given substantially everything contained, 
from the beginning to the end, without interruption or suggestion. The 
same principles of system, method, and analysis I brought to the study 
of law ; and when I was admitted, I could have rehearsed Blackstone in 
the same way. The whole I attributed to Olin s method of teaching; and 
I would not have given the advantages derived from that for all my col 
lege course besides. It has been of more use to me. It called forth all 
the powers of the mind, and taught it to exercise its every faculty. My 
previous instructions were like keeping a child forever sliding and crawl 
ing : Olin made us stand up and walk. A little assistance was at first 
necessary, while the knees were weak, and before strength and confidence 
were acquired; but soon we (I mean the whole class, for there was no 
student in the class that did not understand the studies) began to walk 
without assistance, and then to run and bound, and become the perfect 
masters of all our faculties. I wish you to adopt the right method in these 
studies, and to become perfectly master of them. When a subject is men 
tioned, be able to give an outline of the whole, and show that you have 
studied your author, by being able, without assistance, to go on and tell 
what he says." 

He then answers the question, what would be a suitable sub 
ject for a Junior speech, by suggesting a comparison between the 
ancients and the moderns, giving himself a decided preference to 
the former. Among other things he says : 

"In many things that make man truly great, that show the power 
of his mind, the boldness of his conceptions, and the lofty sentiments of 
his soul, I think the ancients were greatly our superiors. Look at their 
works, their temples and other public buildings, which, after withstanding 
the ravages of centuries, are yet unequalled by anything that man in 
subsequent times ever erected. Why, even the public roads leading from 
the city of Rome, constructed before the Julian day, are now better and 
more substantial than any in the United States, and perhaps in England 
and France. Part of a bridge is yet standing on the Danube which was 
built soon after the time of the Caesars. What a people they must have 
been to leave such vestiges behind them ! If this country should be over 
run by savages, what have we that would remain one thousand years to 
tell that such a race as ours ever existed?" 

And after Rome, Greece, Persia, Egypt, and Assyria are all 
glanced at in support of the writer s thesis. 

On June 2d he answers a letter of Linton s, in which the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 153 

Jatter intimates thoughts of getting excused from speaking at 
Commencement. 

u I can simply say that you must not hesitate between speaking and 
getting excused. You must speak, and you ought to set at once in good 
earnest to writing. There is nothing a student is more apt to do than to 
postpone the duty of composition. . . . The mind should never suffer 
itself to grow slothful and indolent. It is much easier in one s business 
to keep ahead of time than to keep up with its rapid march when once 
thrown ever so little in the rear. You will lose nothing by having your 
speech well committed, even a month before Commencement. It should 
be a rule of your life, established now in this your first appearance before 
the public, never to appear unless you can appear well, and also to 
appear whenever you can with propriety. The kingdom of heaven 
suffereth violence/ saith the Scripture, and the violent take it by force. 
So it is with the world. The most resolute and inflexible bear off the 
palms and crowns in both. A man s character, reputation, and distinc 
tion are the works of his own hands. In contests for honorable distinction 
ever be found among the first of the foremost. Nihil arduum est ipsis 
volentibus, sed nihil potest fieri illis invilis." 

Linton has been thinking, if he speaks, of taking "The Gov 
ernment of God" as a subject. His brother suggests that he 
rather style it "The Philosophy of Nature/ 7 and adds, "if you 
could steer clear of theological abstractions and metaphysical 
refinements, I have no doubt that an address might be made 
embodying views no less interesting than new, and the materials 
would also allow of some flights of fancy and embellishments 
suited to the highest style of oratory." He hints that Time 
might be a better subject, but fears that it is rather of the "all- 
eloquent order." Many hints and thoughtful suggestions are 
given ; and it is really touching to see how he endeavors to 
forestall all possible difficulties, to leave nothing u nth ought of, 
nothing unsaid that may be in any way helpful to this beloved 
brother. 

On June 8th another long letter follows, still about the 
oration, in which he tells his brother something about his own. 

" The subject of my Junior oration was not the Evidences of Christianity, 
but the expediency of rebuilding the penitentiary of the State that had 
been burned down. I discussed the subject with my class-room mate, 
John R. Heed. He took the affirmative and I the negative. The question 
involved, of course, the propriety of abandoning that system of punishment 



154 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

in the State. With that speech I was never very well pleased, though by 
some it was pronounced the best delivered on the occasion. My reasons 
for disliking it were that it was prepared for the purpose of making a 
speech, and did not convey my real sentiments. It was written to defend 
a side, and not to express or enforce my own views. Besides, I had not 
committed it well. I was only about two weeks in preparing it. In the 
delivery I do not think I spoke one-half of it as it was written. Having 
gotten into the current, however, I went on with the tide, and having 
very soon lost my prompter, I ran at large like a loose horse in a public 
ground. Being intimate with the subject, many of the expressions and 
some of the illustrations were perfectly extempore. 

. . . " My speech prepared for the exhibition at the full term was 
written upon the subject of our Cherokee country, and the manner in 
which it was about to be acquired, the expulsion of the Indians, and the 
forced occupation of the lands. The speech was decidedly against the 
policy of the State ; so much so that the faculty wo uld not let me deliver 
it, and with that course I was well pleased, for I had no particular anxiety 
to figure before the public, not half so much as I ought to have had. 
The only penalty inflicted for the contempt in writing a speech not 
suffered to be delivered was the requirement by the faculty that I should 
write a composition during the vacation. This I did, and thus purged the 
contempt. My English salutatory was written upon the Imperfection of 
Science. The subject I thought very suitable to the occasion, and par 
ticularly to myself. I had then travelled through all the fields of learn 
ing, so far as means were afforded at that place, and had become familiar 
with most of the theories of philosophers who have undertaken to instruct 
mankind ; and feeling deeply impressed with the consciousness of how 
little I knew myself, and believed others to know, I thought the time 
opportune to descant a little upon the ignorance of even the learned. 
That and the Latin address delivered at the same time are the only pieces 
of my college composition I now have, and their preservation was alto 
gether accidental. . . . All my other papers, speeches, compositions, 
and scraps I collected and burned the morning before taking final leave 
of my room. This I have often since regretted; for even now I should 
like to look over those early effusions, and observe the gradual develop 
ment of style and the change of thought as well as the manner of ex 
pression. I have no doubt I should see much to make me blush, and 
probably induce me forthwith to destroy them, for I was among the 
rudest of rude and raw beginners." 

He has much to say in reference to a rather disgraceful riot 
that took place at the college. Linton, it is almost needless to 
say, was in no way connected with it; but still it gives , his 
brother a theme for a long and earnest lecture, full of good 
monitions to a young man. Disgraceful and dishonorable con- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 155 

duct or principles are to be looked upon with loathing as a 
moral leprosy. Those infected with them are to be shunned, 
but with pity, as we should shun a wretched leper. Shunned, 
that is, except when an opportunity offers of doing them good. 
But the rule of our own life is to be "stern and inflexible 
honor/ 7 

On August 14th he writes that his health is very bad again. 
He ventured incautiously upon a journey after being sick, and 
was made much worse. Suffers much with his side and a severe 
cough, and is trying vesication with tartrate of antimony. He 
adds: 

" I have very little hope of ever getting well. This I mention, not from 
any peculiar feelings of despondency I entertain, but as the deliberate ex 
pression of my apprehension. It is true that with great care, prudence, 
and caution I may recover my former health, nor am I at all disposed to 
abandon the means. But still, from my constant watchfulness over my 
state and condition of health for some years, my apprehensions are as 
above expressed." 

On the 16th he writes more about his health and the treat 
ment he is pursuing, reiterated blisterings and cupping. 

" I did not write at all to excite your alarm so as to render you in the 
least uneasy. That I am in a delicate and precarious condition I feel con 
fident ; but then I am not at all apprehensive of any immediate or speedy 
turn in my disease in any direction. ... I will keep you advised of my 
situation : and I want you by all means not to permit yourself to grow 
uneasy. I do not feel so myself, and do not wish anybody to feel so on my 
account. ^Life and death, as well as everything else, should be considered 
philosophically. j 

And he proceeds so to consider them. We can see that he 
really has no expectation of recovery, and wishes, without alarm 
ing his brother, to get him into a frame of mind that will be 
prepared for the worst. He concludes : 

" In reference to my own particular friends, I hardly know whether it 
would be more agreeable to me to take my turn in advance or to go after. 
Be not therefore disturbed, because, first, there is no immediate cause, and, 
secondly, because to be thus disturbed is wrong in principle." 

The letters now cease for two months. Mr. Stephens rapidly 
grew worse, and was prostrated with what all believed to be 
consumption. For weeks his sufferings were terrible and un- 



156 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

remitting. He looked constantly for the end, but without fear 
and without complaint. Few men have spoken of or looked 
forward to death more calmly. Doubtless his habit, from child 
hood, of contemplating that event as not far off at furthest, and 
likely to occur at any time, as well as the almost constant suffer 
ing that made life less desirable to him than to most, have had 
much to do in accustoming him to regard it with equanimity. He 
neither shunned nor sought any reference to his own sufferings ; 
but his lively sympathy was always for the afflictions of others. 

After a time it became evident that the lungs were not, as was 
at first thought, the seat of the disease. It proved to be in the 
liver, where a large abscess formed, which at length opened into 
the lungs, and was discharged in that way. Relief followed ; 
then rapid improvement of his health, which grew better than 
it had been since 1836. 

In October he was elected to the State Senate, where he ac 
tively exerted himself in advocating various important measures, 
and in opposition to the Central Bank, an institution for the 
purpose of carrying on banking by the State, to the winding 
up of which he greatly contributed. One of the important 
questions which came up during this session of the Legislature 
was that of the adoption by the State of the law of Congress 
of June 25th, 1842, requiring that the Representatives to that 
body should be elected by districts, instead of what was then 
known as the "general ticket" system, by which each party pre 
pared an entire ticket, which was voted on throughout the State. 
Mr. Stephens urged the Legislature to comply with this requisi 
tion, which it, however, refused to do. 

Mr. Stephens, being in the minority, did not obtain any promi 
nent position on committees, but reports on all matters of im 
portance considered in committee were from his pen, among the 
rest a Report on the Financial Condition of the State ; on the 
Railway, and the disposition of the State to abandon it; and on 
Education. Most important of these, however, was the Report 
of the Committee on Federal Relations, of which extended notice 
must be taken. 

It was in this year, though previously to his election, that an 
attempt was made to force upon the country a renewal of the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 157 

protective tariff. By Mr. Clay s Compromise of 1833, one- 
tenth of one-half of all duties over a revenue standard was to 
be taken off every year for ten years, at the end of which time 
the other half was to be removed, and thereafter all duties were 
to be levied for revenue only. But in 1842 the Protectionists 
persistently refused to allow the compromise to go into effect, 
though it had been agreed to by all parties, North and South, 
and its acceptance had quieted the discontent of the nullification 
party in South Carolina. As in the case of Missouri and Maine, 
one party was willing to reap the immediate benefit of a com 
promise, and then did not hesitate at refusing to fulfil their part 
of the contract. So Congress this year passed a tariff bill of a 
strongly protective character, in open and flagrant violation of 
the Compromise of 1833. President Tyler promptly vetoed 
the bill. Another generally similar bill met the same fate. 
Finally the Tariff Bill known as the Whig Tariff of 1842 was 
passed and received the Executive signature. Though it was 
less objectionable than the others, still the Compromise of 1833 
was abandoned, and in principle the Protectionists carried the 
day. A section of the Whig party that had supported the 
President in his veto of the bill creating " The Fiscal Bank of 
the United States," and were known by the name of " Tylei 
Whigs/ 7 acted with the Democrats in resisting the encroach 
ments of the Protectionists. The debates in Congress were very 
animated, the country was excited, and party feeling ran high. 
The Southern States began uneasily to consider their position 
and prospects in the Republic, which position they looked upon 
as seriously endangered by the non-fulfilment of the Compro 
mise of 1833. 

In Georgia, the Whigs were slightly in the minority in the 
Legislature. During the session of the Senate an important 
debate occurred on the Federal Relations of the State, growing 
out of the majority and minority reports of the Committee on the 
state of the Republic. The matter under immediate considera 
tion by the Committee was a part of the Governor s message. 
The previous Legislature (Democratic) had passed a series of 
resolutions, and transmitted them through the Governor to the 
Georgia Senators in Congress, disapproving of the political con- 



158 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

duct of the Hon. J. M. Berrien, one of these Senators. To this 
Mr. Berrien did not reply directly, but published an address, 
justificatory of his conduct, to the people of Georgia. The 
Governor looked upon this action as a slight to both himself and 
the Legislature ; and so it was considered by the majority of the 
Committee, who in their report recommended that Mr. Berrien 
should resign his seat. " The Legislature/ 7 they said, " has no 
power to compel a Senator to resign ; but the theory of a Repre 
sentative government, and the delicate connection between the 
Constituent and the Representative, imperiously demand that 
whenever he ceases to subserve the object of his appointment, he 
should at once surrender the delegated trust ; and tested by this 
plain and obvious rule, Mr. Berrien will utterly defeat the end 
and design of a Representative government should he continue 
to retain the office of Senator in Congress." 

From this theory, that the members of the State Legislatures 
were the constituents of the Senators in Congress, the minority 
dissented in a report prepared by Mr. Stephens, though he was 
not a member of the Committee. .With regard to the proper 
constituency of the United States Senators this report says : 

^^ u The undersigned cannot agree with his Excellency, or the majority of 
\ the Committee, in the idea that the members of the Legislature are the 
\ proper Constituents 1 of the Senators in Congress. It is true that under 
^ Constitution of the United States they elect them, but in doing this 
they act themselves in a representative capacity. Constituent and Repre 
sentative we hold to be correlative terms. The Constituent is one whose 
rights and interests, to some extent, are confided or entrusted to another ; 
that other to whom such rights and interests are so confided or entrusted 
is the Representative. The members of the Legislature, in electing a 
United States Senator, are but exercising a delegated trust. That trust is 
limited in its extent, specific in its nature, and ceases with its execution. 
The appointment is only made through them by their own constituents ; 
and the Senators, when so chosen, represent them or their interests no 
more than any other equal number of the citizens of the State. Nor are 
they any more responsible or amenable to them than any other like por 
tion of the mass of the people. The fact that the members of the Legis 
latures of the respective States, under the Constitution of the United States, 
are made the electors of Senators to Congress, in the opinion of the under 
signed, no more makes them the Constituents cf the Senators, than that 
the election of President and Vice-President of the United States being 
made by Electors chosen in the respective States, according to the pro- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 159 

visions of the same Constitution, makes such Electors the constituents of 
these highest and most important officers of the Government. The cases, 
for illustration, are sufficiently analogous, and the principles applicable to 
one must be applicable to the other. If the Legislatures of the several 
States are the Constituents of the Senators, then the Colleges of Elec 
tors in the same States are the only Constituents of the President and 
Vice-President of the United States ; and the same doctrine of instruction, 
of course, would apply ; for if applicable in one case, why not in the other? 
And with this construction, what would be the result of our entire system 
of political organization? It would only be necessary for the Electors in 
each of the States to meet, and by their instructions to remove from office 
the Chief Magistrate of the country at every ebb and flow of party feel, 
ing, or change in popular opinion. But the undersigned do not so under 
stand the Constitution ; nor do they believe it was so understood by its 
frame rs or first expounders. They hold_that__the People of the States, and 
not the Legislatures, are the Constituents of Senators in Congress, and 
that the people of the Unite^JLStates-, and- notH^re Electors, are the Con 
stituents of the President and Vice-President of tlie-Umo~Tn This was 
certainTy~the opinion of Washington, who, in one of his earliest messages 
to the Senate and House of Representatives, spoke of the people of the 
country as being his and their common Constituents. Had he held the 
doctrine of the Governor or the majority of the Committee, he could not 
have looked beyond the Electors, the body from whom he derived his office, 
in referring to his constituents. The majority of the Committee say that 
the Legislature has no power to compel a Senator to resign; but the 
theory of a Representative government, and the delicate connection between 
the Constituent and Representative, imperiously demand that whenever he 
ceases to subserve the object of his appointment, he should at once sur 
render the delegated trust ; and tested by this plain and obvious rule, 
Mr. Berrien will utterly defeat the end and design of a Representative 
government should he continue to retain the office of Senator in Con 
gress. Now, what peculiar opinion the majority may entertain of the 
theory of a Representative government, by which they arrive at the con 
clusion stated, the undersigned are wholly unable to imagine ; and as 
those theoretical views are not given, the premises from which the deduc 
tions are drawn being unknown, the legitimacy of the conclusion must, as 
a matter of course, remain a subject of mere speculation. The undersigned, 
however, in arguing such a question, would state that they recognized no 
principles or premises from which to start but such as are to be found in 
the Constitution of the country. And taking this as their rule and stand 
ard, and confining themselves in their inquiries strictly within its plainly- 
written and well-defined provisions, they hesitate not to say that the 
conclusion of the majority is altogether erroneous. If the majority have 
any other theory than that of the Constitution, the undersigned beg leave 
to say that they are not its advocates. They know of but one code of 



160 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

principles governing the question, and they are to be found in the funda 
mental law of the Union, the great chart of our Representative govern 
ment. The minority take it for granted that what is meant in the report 
by the expression, when a Senator ceases to subserve the object of his 
appointment, is, when he ceases to effect or carry out the wishes of those 
whom the majority are pleased to call his Constituents ; or, in other 
words, to conform to the wishes of a majority of the Legislature. With 
this understanding, it seems only necessary to compare the proposition 
with the principles assumed as the standard to render its fallacy apparent 
toaliy Ours is a government founded upon compact. Its principles and 
powers are so well and clearly denned in the instrument of its creation, 
as to leave but little latitude for theory in its construction. Nor are the 
"Duties, obligations, and responsibilites of those who officiate in its admin 
istration less distinctly marked ; and the provisions of all which, as well 
as the powers granted, as the mode and manner of their execution, were 
wisely adjusted, with proper checks and balances, by its patriot founders, 
for the preservation of peace, liberty, and happiness. And according to 
the provisions of that instrument, the term of a Senator s office is fixed at 
the period of six years, and is not left dependent upon the fluctuations of 
party strife, or the sudden changes of factious majorities. It may be true 
that the theory of the majority demands a different term, or one upon 
different principles ; but it is sufficient for us that the Constitution does 
not. The propriety of this feature in the Government is not now the 
question for remark. All that is asked is that it be acknowledged as part 
of the Constitution, and that as such, so long as it remains unaltered, it be 
maintained inviolate. We believe, however, that there is wisdom in the 
clause fixing the term of Senators as long as it is, and that it was not so 
arranged or adopted without many salutary views. /^_the framers of the 
Constitution had thought, as the majority do, that the holding of the seat, 
on the part of any Senator, against the wishes of a majority of the Legis 
lature of his State, at any time, would utterly defeat the end and design 
of the Government they were forming, would they nt have made the 
tenure of this office dependent upon different principles y If all the good, 
and the advantages which it was supposed would belTeVived from the for 
mation of this Government, could be so easily defeated, is it not strange 
that so important an oversight should have been committed by men so 
distinguished for learning, wisdom, and patriotism? Such an argument, 
even if we were left to our own unassisted conjectures, would do injustice 
to their memories. But when with the light of their own exposition we 
are taught that this feature was incorporated for the express purpose of 
rendering that branch of the National Legislature free from the influence 
and control of sudden changes in popular opinion, how can we or a-ny one 
subscribe to the doctrine that the effectuation by a Senator of this very 
original design is a subversion of the Government and a defeat of the end 
of its creation? And with these views and principles we beg leave re- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 161 

^ 

spectfully to declare our attachment to the Constitution of the country as 
it is, in preference to any undefined principles or untried theories of a 
Representative government, 1 entertained by those of a majority of the 
Committee. This expression of opinion on the part of the majority we 
deem no less indiscreet in another consideration. Twice at least, in the 
last four years, a majority of the Legislature of this State differed, on 
most of the great questions of national politics, from both their Senators 
in Congress. Without stating what the course of those majorities then 
was, as a precedent now, it is sufficient for our present purpose to say that 
the Senators continued to retain their seats ; or, in the views perhaps of 
the majority, ceased to subserve the objects of their appointment. The 
same may be said of several other States of the Union ; and what has been 
the result? Has the end and design of a Representative government been 
thereby utterly defeated? And can the majority seriously entertain the 
opinion that if the Honorable John M. Berrien, who deservedly stands 
among the first in the Senate of the United States for learning and elo 
quence, and who is no less an honor to his State than an ornament to the 
nation, shall continue to hold his place, though he may happen to differ at 
this time from the majority in the Legislature of his own State on many 
questions of public policy, that this will result in an utter defeat of the 
end and design of Representative government? We can hardly conceive 
that we have to do more than barely state the proposition to cause them, 
however strong may be their party zeal, at least to see the error of their 
position, if not to modify the entravagance of their assertion." 

But the minority did not stop with these refutations of the 
position of the majority. They took this occasion clearly to 
state their views, and the views of such as agreed with them on 
the great public questions then under agitat on ; and their very 
able presentation of these views caused this document to be re 
ceived as a declaration of principles of the Whig party in Georgia. 
As such, and as a clear enunciation of Mr. Stephens s own politi 
cal doctrines, we give the remainder of this report almost entire. 
After showing that the assertion of the majority that the people 
of Georgia were opposed to a National Bank was not supported 
by sufficient evidence, and that the warm support the State had 
given President Jackson had other causes than his antagonism 
to that institution, the report proceeds : 

"Another broad declaration made by the majority, to which the under 
signed cannot give their assent, is that the people of Georgia are opposed 
to the distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands. Now, 
how this conclusion is arrived at we must confess that we are equally 
unable to determine. In this case, adopting the same standard as that 

11 



1(52 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

assumed in the previous one, we certainly arrive at very different conclu 
sions from those attained by the majority. If, by the phrase the dis 
tribution of the proceeds of sales of public lands. it is meant to include 
the distribution which was lately expected to take place, certainly the 
Committee will not even attempt to maintain their position ; for, if we be 
not misinformed, a place was left for the use of those funds in legislative 
appropriation even before their reception ; and the present Governor of 
this State was among the earliest, if not the first, in the whole Union, to 
make application for the portion coming to Georgia. This, in our opinion, 
would not justify us in saying that the people were opposed to the dis 
tribution. But perhaps the majority mean only to say that the people are 
only opposed to the principle of the distribution, though they are willing 
and ready to receive their part when it is made. That 

The right they see, and they approve it too, 
The wrong condemn, and yet the wrong pursue. 

But this would be giving the State such a position before the civilized and 
moral world as we would be slow to acknowledge. And as we are un 
willing to see this injustice done to her character by any such unauthorized 
statement, we feel bound to vindicate her honor from the unwarrantable 
aspersion. We believe that the State has applied for her quota because it 
was right and it was just, and that, for the same reasons, she could con 
tinue to demand it. But the question now is not the propriety of the 
distribution ; it is whether the people of Georgia be opposed to it? and in 
determining it as before, we only have recourse to the indications of the past 
So far as the application for her portion of the dividend expected to be made 
is concerned, that is certainly a strong demonstration in favor of the distri 
bution. But this is not all. In 1837, when the large distribution was made 
of the surplus revenue of the United States, which accrued mostly from the 
sales of the public lands, Georgia showed no formidable opposition to the 
measure, but readily received her part, and thereby added over one million 
of dollars to the means of the Central Bank, to aid the people in her 
munificent loans. From these examples, how can it be said that her people 
are opposed to the distribution? But again : in 1833, when the question 
as to the proper distribution of the public lands was before Congress, 
Georgia gave some expressions of the views of her people upon this sub 
ject, at least so far as a legislative resolve could, with propriety, be con 
sidered as such expression. The language of the Legislature at this time 
was in the following words : i Without specifically inquiring into the means 
by which the United States Government became possessed of the public 
lands, or the causes which, after the war of the Revolution, induced several 
of the States to transfer to that Government all, or a great portion, of their 
unoccupied lands, under certain limitations and restrictions, specified in 
the several deeds of cession or relinquish ments, your Committee deem it 
sufficient to state that those deeds and relinquishments, and all other pur- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

chases of lands by the United States Government, were made for the 
common benefit of the several States. That it is a common fund to be 
distributed without partiality, and to inure to the benefit of all the States. 

" Here is a most positive declaration of sentiment nine years ago, before 
any distribution had been made, that these lands were a common fund, 
not for the benefit of the General Government, to be wasted and squandered 
in useless extravagance, but for the several States, that is, each individ 
ually ; and that this fund ought to be distributed among them without 
partiality. How then, in the face of this declaration, and after the dis 
tribution which has been made, and Georgia s reception of, or application 
for, her portion, can we join in the assertion that her people are opposed 
to the distribution? But, as stated before, we apprehend the object is 
rather to form and forestall public opinion, than to express what it really 
is. For why should Georgia be opposed to this distribution? Has she no 
interest in those lands and no right to a part of their proceeds? We con 
ceive that she has ; and that she should neither neglect her interest nor 
relinquish her right. The Territory of Georgia once extended to the 
waters of the Mississippi, including within its limits the present new and 
nourishing States of Alabama and Mississippi. This immense region, 
embracing some of the most fertile soil on the continent, was once the 
property of our fathers. Had it been kept and retained by them it would 
have been worth millions of treasure ; but for purposes more patriotic 
than prudent, they ceded this entire domain, forming the two States above 
named, to the General Government, under specific limitations and con 
ditions. These were, that the lands, after the payment of a certain sum 
of money, and making good certain titles, should be held by the General 
Government as a common fund, for the benefit of the United States, 
Georgia included, and for no other purpose whatever. The language of 
this condition is as follows: That all the lands ceded by this agreement 
to the United States shall, after satisfying the above-mentioned payment 
of one million two hundred and fifty thousand dollars to the State of 
Georgia, and the grants recognized by the preceding conditions, be con 
sidered as a common fund for the use and benefit of the United States, 
Georgia included, and shall be faithfully disposed of for that purpose, and 
for no other use or purpose whatever." 1 

" Similar deeds of cession were made by the other States which were 
the proprietors of those territories which now also embraced parts of the 
public lands. The terms of the Virginia cession are very much like those 
of Georgia. They expressly stipulated that these lands should be faith 
fully and bona fide disposed of for the purposes specified in the cession, 
and for no other use or purpose whatsoever. Now, these first objects of 
the deeds of cession having been fully accomplished, what do the advo 
cates of distribution ask, but that the remainder of these lands shall be 
faithfully and bona fide disposed of, according to the terms by which the 
Government acquired them? Is it not right that Georgia and other States 



164 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

should insist upon the fulfilment of the contract, so far as their interests 
are concerned? And if it is right, why should it not be demanded? Is 
it sufficient to be met with the answer that it is better for the General 
Government to keep these funds to meet its own ordinary expenses rather 
than turn them over to the States to whom they rightly belong, for fear, 
in case of their withdrawal, that heavier contributions will be laid by way 
of taxation ? We think not. It would be an insufficient answer in any 
trustee, when called upon to account for funds committed to his charge, 
that he had used them in the payment of his own debts. Nor does it 
follow that if these funds be distributed according to contract more 
taxes will be levied. The people will rather require the expenses and 
extravagances of the Government to be curtailed, which would be one of 
the most salutary ways of effecting that reformation. But this reply is 
only intended for deception and delusion. It is well known that millions 
of these lands have already been squandered in gifts, largesses, and dona 
tions, and are not brought into the common treasury of the country. For 
years past they have been kept as a kind of reserved fund of speculation 
for the political gamblers for the Presidency. Millions of acres have been 
given as bounties to schools and colleges, and for other purposes, in the 
new States ; and every means has been resorted to, by the friends of dif 
ferent favorites, to secure the popularity of the men of their choice by 
some new method of wasting the public domain. And the contest now is 
really not between the claims of the treasury and the friends of distribu 
tion, but between those who advocate a partial or entire surrender of the 
lands to the new States and those who insist upon a division of their 
proceeds, according to the terms of cession. And are the people of 
Georgia willing to see these lands, and the immense interest she has in 
them, either so squandered, or entirely abandoned, according to the views 
of different political aspirants? Has she no use for money that she should 
be so lavish and prodigal of her treasure ? If the General Government is 
in debt, it has been incurred by its own profligacy ; and should Georgia 
and the other States surrender their rights in order to sustain its credit 
when their own is permitted to go dishonored? Let the United States 
account to us for what is our due, and we will not fail to render to them 
every dollar that is legally and properly exacted ; or, in other words, let us 
have but our own, and we will be the better able to pay what is theirs. . . . 
11 In the third place, another principle to which the people of this State 
in the report are said to be opposed, is the abolition of the Veto Power. 
Had nothing else been said upon this subject or no attempt been made, 
as we conceive, to misrepresent the views of our honorable Senator in 
relation to it, we should have given this proposition our hearty assent. 
No man in this State, perhaps, is in favor of the abolition of the veto 
power. Judge Berrien certainly is not, so far as we can judge from his 
sentiments declared. No one can express his views upon the subject more 
clearly than he did himself in the Senate of the United States. We beg 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 165 

leave to refer to his words, that none may misunderstand either him or 
that modification of the veto power of which he is in favor. I ask, 
said he, the Senate now to consider what it is the resolution proposes as 
a security against the recurrence of this state of things? Does it seek to 
abolish the Executive Veto? No, sir; this is not the proposition. It is 
simply to modify the existing limitation. Let us now look to the limita 
tion which the resolution recommends. It proposes that when a bill 
which has passed both Houses of Congress shall be returned by the Presi 
dent, with his veto, all further action shall be suspended upon it until the 
next succeeding session ; in the mean time the reasons of the President 
will be spread upon the Legislative Journal, will be read, considered, 
submitted to the public, and discussed orally and through the medium of 
the press ; and members will return to their constituents, will mingle with 
and consult them. At the opening of the next session of Congress the 
resolution proposes that the consideration of the bill shall be resumed ; 
and then if the majority of the whole number of Senators and Repre 
sentatives elected, after the interval thus afforded for deliberation, for 
consultation with their constituents, and for the public discussion of the 
subject, shall reaffirm the bill, it shall become a law. 

" Such are the sentiments of the Senator, from which it will appear how 
great injustice is done him in imputing to him a wish to abolish the veto. 
But the majority say, if the proposed modification should be adopted, all 
our rights, and the Constitution itself, will be the sport of an irresponsible 
majority in Congress. This is bold language, and upon a grave subject, 
and therefore deserves particular attention. In noticing it we will suggest 
but three inquiries. In the first place, will not the rights of the people 
be as amply protected in the hands of a number of Representatives as by 
the will of one man ? Would they be less secure with their Representa 
tives in Congress than with the President? In the second place, if the 
Constitution should be so amended, would Congress have any more power 
over it then than they have now? Congress has now no power over the 
Constitution. They are bound by its precepts. And as the proposed 
amendment confers no new power, Congress, of course, would have no 
more over it after the amendment than before. In the third place, how 
can the majorities in Congress be said to be irresponsible? Are they not 
elected by the people? Do not the members of the House hold their 
office for the short term of two years? Are they then not amenable to 
the people ? If they do wrong, or misrepresent the wishes of those who 
elect them, will they not be displaced and others put in their stead ? Are 
they then not amenable to the people? If they do wrong, or misrepre 
sent the wishes of those who elect them, will they not be displaced and 
others put in their stead? Are they more irresponsible than the Presi 
dent? 

" But, in the fourth place : Another subject is mentioned in the report, 
on which the undersigned were desirous that no disagreement should ex- 



1(56 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

1st either in the Committee or in the House. We allude to the principles 
involved in the adjustment of the tariff. Nor would we notice the subject 
at this time if we did not conceive that there has been an evident attempt 
in this particular also to do great injustice to the position of our honorable 
Senator in relation to it. The majority, in their first resolution, declare 
that the opinions of the Honorable John M. Berrien upon the adjustment 
of the tariff are in direct opposition to the principles of a large majority 
of the people of this State. And in their preamble they state that a ma 
jority of the people believe that a tariff for protection is unequal in its 
operations, oppressive, and unjust. From this the inference is clear that 
principles are imputed to the honorable Senator favorable to the enact 
ment of a tariff for protection. This imputation we deem utterly un 
founded and altogether unjust. Judge Berrien has always been opposed 
to a tariff for protection ; or, at least, we supposed that this position 
would be granted him wherever the author of the Georgia Manifesto 
was known. Nor do the undersigned know with what recklessness of 
purpose a contrary position is now charged upon him. Perhaps the same 
spirit, if unchecked, would lead its authors to make the same unwarrant 
able allegations against the whole political party in this State with which 
he acts. If so, our object is to repel even the insinuation. The opinions 
and principles of that party upon the Tariff question have always been 
known. They have undergone no change. And in making a declaration 
of them we presume we would be stating in the main those held by our 
Senator. We are, and have been, in favor of a tariff for revenue and rev 
enue only ; and that for no more revenue than is sufficient to support the 
Government in an economical administration thereof. We hold that in 
levying such a tariff, in many instances it may be both proper and right 
to discriminate. This may be done either for the purpose of retaliating 
against the policy of foreign nations who may subject our produce to 
heavy taxation, or for the purpose of exempting some articles of foreign 
production consumed extensively in this country (and in some instances by 
classes less able to bear the burdens of the Government) from so high 
duties on others more able to sustain them. And so far as such a tariff 
incidentally encourages, fosters, or protects the domestic industry of the 
country in any branch thereof, whether mechanical, manufacturing, ship 
ping, or agricultural, it may properly do so. A tariff for protection, to 
which we are and have been opposed, is, where the tariff is levied not 
with a view to revenue, but for the prohibition, totally, or in part, of the 
importation of certain articles from abroad, that the producers of such 
articles in this country may have our market to themselves, free from 
foreign competition ; or that the price of the foreign articles may be so 
enhanced by the excessive duties as to enable the home producer to enter 
the market without fear of competition. Against this we protest, because 
the means used are not legitimate ; and it is highly oppressive to the in 
terests of all other classes in society who are the consumers of such 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

articles. As far as the Government, in the proper exercise of its powers, 
can give encouragement to the general industry of the country, or aid in 
the development of its resources, it should do it. But not one step beyond 
that should it go. 

" With these views we beg leave to submit the following resolutions : 

" Resolved, That the Hon. John M. Berrien, our Senator in Congress, 
for the able and distinguished manner in which he has discharged his 
public duties, receives our warmest approbation, and is entitled to the 
thanks and confidence of the people of Georgia. 

" Resolved, That we do not consider the members of the Legislature the 
proper constituents of Senators in Congress 5 or that the Senators in Con 
gress are any more responsible or amenable to them than to any other 
equal number of like citizens of the State. 

" Resolved, That in our opinion a majority of the people of this State 
are decidedly in favor of the utility and expediency of a National Bank, 
compared with any other system of finance proposed to the country : as 
well as a distribution of the proceeds of the sales of the public lands 
among the States, severally, i equitably, and without partiality. 

" Resolved, That in our opinion the most proper and expedient way of 
raising means to meet the ordinary expenses of the General Government 
is by duties upon imports; and though in the levying of such duties for 
this main object a judicious and proper discrimination be exercised, yet 
in no instance should duties be laid for the purpose of protection, but for 
revenue only. 

11 ROBT. A. T. RIDLEY, ll JOHN TOWNSEND, 

" A. B. REID, " JAMES T. BOTHWELL, 

" WM. B. TANKERSLEY, " Ez. BUFFINGTON, 

" JOHX CAMPBELL." 

We have quoted at considerable length from this document, 
because, as before remarked, it was accepted as a declaration of 
the principles of the Georgia Whigs, and formed their platform 
in the ensuing Congressional election. It will be seen they differ 
considerably from those of the Northern Whigs. 

The doctrine that the Senators in Congress represent the Legis 
latures of their respective States is so unreasonable, that one 
would think it had only to be plainly stated to be refuted. The 
principles on which the two Houses of Congress were constructed 
has been explained in a previous chapter. A Constitution could 
not have been formed in which no respect was had to the differ 
ence of population of the States, nor could one have been formed 
in which the States entered otherwise than as equal Sovereign 
Powers. Hence the inequality in the lower House, and equality 



168 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

in the Senate. The constituents of the Senators are the People 
of the State as an organic whole a Sovereign Power ; the con 
stituents of the Representatives are the People of the State as a 
multitude of individuals. 

The National Bank was a Whig measure everywhere. It was 
believed that such an institution could be established which 
would be free from the defects that rendered the former one so 
pernicious, and to which, as we have seen, Mr. Stephens had been 
so emphatically opposed. The distribution of the proceeds of 
the public lands, however it might have worked, would have 
been far better than having a glutted treasury to invite plunder 
and stimulate corruption, or than the scheme which, under the 
specious name of "Public Improvements," added a dangerous 
power and influence to the General Government, and made it 
possible to bribe whole States, even to the detriment of those 
whose bounty had furnished the means. 

Against the impolitic and iniquitous system of protection (now 
defended in no enlightened country except the United States) 
it will be seen they take firm ground. In this they were sup 
ported by sound political economy, simple justice, and the pro 
visions of a solemn agreement. They could not foresee that at 
a later day the leading spirits in Congress would be men to whom 
these things would be laughing-stocks, and the Constitution 
itself the object of scorn and derision. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

Journey to Florida A House of Mourning The Kays Nomination to 
Congress Discussion with Judge Colquitt The Tables turned Election 
of Mr. Stephens Death of Aaron Grier Stephens. 

IN the following year, 1843, we find the correspondence with 
Linton renewed, as the latter had returned to college. In April 
Alexander informs him that he is about starting for Florida. He 
travelled in his buggy, taking his servant, Bob, with him on 
horseback. Little is said of this journey, which went as far as 
Tallahassee ; perhaps the postal facilities were not great. On 
his way home he writes a long letter from Hamilton, chiefly in 
reference to domestic affliction in the family of his brother John, 
who lived there, one of whose children had just died of scarlet 
fever, and another was very ill. He stayed a week to help in 
nursing the sick and comforting the mourners. 

" I do not remember when I approached a family in the midst of so 
much gloom, or when my own heart has been so much saddened. I came 
expecting enjoyment and hoping to partake of such pleasures as generally 
attend the meetings and greetings of kindred and friends after long inter 
vals of absence. Instead of this, I came to a house of mourning, and my 
office was to comfort the grieved and soothe the afflicted. This is, perhaps, 
after all, the best way in which to spend our time. Our life is but a 
chequered scene at best, furnishing much more over which to mourn than 
to rejoice. Now and then, it is true, it is favored with a ray of sunshine 
and beauty to warm and gladden the soul, and cause its young hopes to 
bud and blossom. Q|iit no sooner are they fully blown than they are 
nipped by untimely frosts or blasted by chilling rains, or dashed to pieces 
by reckless storms.^ Man s history is a strange mixture of pleasure and 
pain, joy and sorrow, hope and despair, life and death ! A mystery, deep, 
dark, and unfathomable ! To live to-day, to be warm, to move and think : 
to-morrow to be silent, cold, and dead, devoid of mind and sense, fast 
mouldering into dust, fit food for worms. To-day with a spirit that can 
scan the universe and make its own impress upon the world that ages 
cannot efface, to-morrow to be nothing but loathsome matter to be hidden 
away to rot. This is man." 

169 



170 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

On May 28th he reports his safe return, and gives a minute 
account of his reception, the condition in which lie found things, 
and the various events, fortunate or otherwise, that had happened 
during his absence. On June 4th he sends complimentary and 
gallant messages to Miss Elizabeth Church (daughter of Dr. 
Alonzo Church, his old friend, now President of the university) 
on the announcement of her engagement with Lieutenant 
Craig. This charming and accomplished lady .was married 
soon after. Her husband, about the year 1853, was murdered 
by a gang of mutineers in the army, on the survey of the 
Mexican boundary, and in 1859 the widow married James Robb, 
Esq., of New York. During the war she became known to 
thousands of our Southern soldiers while prisoners at the North, 
whose wants she supplied as far as was in her power. She died 
in 1868. The letter closes with a sketch of an evening visit 
paid to his cousin Sabrina Ray, which forms a pleasing picture 
of life on an old-fashioned Georgia farm. 

" They [the Rays] seem peculiarly fitted for taking the world easy and 
making the most of it as it goes. Tom [Mr. Ray] is really amusing. I 
hardly know what to make of him. He has no desire to make any more 
than just enough to live comfortably on, and then to live to enjoy it. They 
were all hands at work. Cousin was weaving, while William s wife and 
Granny [both servants] were making the wheels fly. They were all glad 
to see me. We had a fine supper. Cousin milked her own cows. I went 
with her to the pen. She has a fine spring-house, and I saw all her jars 
and pans of milk, butter, etc., fresh and as cool as the fountain. At sup 
per no one had coffee but myself: milk was the only beverage, some taking 
buttermilk and some sweet milk, and every one having his mug. All 
seemed contented and cheerful, and full of such happiness as, when weary 
and tired with a long day s work, night brings to the industrious when in 
health. No sooner was the evening meal over than preparations were 
made for bed, and in a few minutes all of this world, its cares and losses, 
its trials and ambitions, were forgotten in sleep." 

On June 14th he writes in anticipation of a journey to Mil- 
ledgeville, where he will be a delegate to the Whig Convention. 
He refers with feeling to Linton s final examination, which will 
soon take place. It brings back to memory the time when he 
sent his brother off to college. 

"Well do I remember with what solicitude and intensity of feeling, 
known only to myself, I fitted you out for your departure to college. And 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 21. STEPHENS. 171 

then, when all things were ready, the hour arrived, the last words were 
spoken, and in a few moments more the whirling car rushed recklessly on 
in the darkness, and I returned to nay room, how I committed you and 
your fortunes into the hands of that mysterious Providence who guides 
our destinies. At that time, owing to the great feebleness of my health, I 
hardly permitted myself to indulge the hope of living to see the time of 
your graduation. But now your course is nearly ended, and that period 
has almost arrived. If you shall live a few short weeks longer, you must 
take your stand among men. Have you ever seriously considered and fully 
realized how near you are to so important a crisis in life? If not, it is 
time that the subject, with all its gravity and responsibility, was kept con 
stantly in mind. "Would that I had time and space to present it in its 
various shapes ! The past has been pleasant ; you have been agreeably 
entertained in looking at the world at a distance, and as a stranger or dis 
interested spectator, philosophizing perhaps upon its various characters, 
its pursuits, its inconsistencies, its passions, its shifts, its struggles, and 
its treacheries. But your position is now to be changed, and all these are 
to be encountered. Some liken college life to the world in miniature, and 
the illustration is not without some aptness. But such a life compared to 
that of the outer world is more like sailing upon the unruffled surface of 
the broad river, or the still, widening bay, just before it issues from its 
restricted channel and the protecting embrace of its banks and capes, into 
the wide expanse of waters just ahead, compared to the breasting and 
weathering the mighty waves and raging billows that are ever heaving 
and rolling and surging on ocean s bosom. Life s passage is over a tem 
pestuous sea, and well built, well manned, well piloted must be the barque 
that safely makes the voyage. Many spread their sails joyously to the 
breeze, but few reach the wished-for haven. Be not, then, inattentive. 
It is an important period of your life. You never did and never will 
stand in more need of cool thought, sober reflection, and good judgment 
than now. Especially let not passion control your feelings. Life is just 
before you , and the part you are to act in it has now soon to be shown, 
and the character you wish to sustain is now to be formed." 

The last available corner of the paper has now been filled, and 
the letter must come to an end. 

July 2d. The final examination is over, and Linton, alone in 
his class, has gained the First Honor. Immediately there is a 
slight change in the tone of the correspondence. The brother 
who has been stimulating him to exertion, arousing his ambition 
for honorable distinction, now that he has won this distinction, 
begins to speak of it as a thing that is satisfactory and creditable, 
to be sure, but no such immense triumph after all. It was a 
wise Mentor the young man had. 



172 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

" I was indeed gratified to learn that you had received the First Honor 
in your class; not that I attach the least importance to the mere show or 
6clat of such a distinction, but I was gratified to have the evidence that 
you had not misspent your time, and that during the four years of your 
absence you had not been unmindful of the first of all duties, your duty 
to yourself in the cultivation of your morals and your mind, and in fitting 
yourself for usefulness in those scenes of life into which you are now about 
to enter. ... In rendering yourself worthy of this distinction, you have 
but done what you ought to have done, and deserve the same commen 
dation due to all persons who pursue a similar course of conduct, and 
nothing more. From want of a correct way of viewing such things many 
young men, who otherwise would have succeeded well in life, have been 
utterly ruined by being the favored objects upon whom such distinctions 
have been once bestowed. The nature of true honor is misunderstood by 
them." 

However they may misunderstand it, he does not mean that 
his young brother shall make their mistake and interpret a 
certificate of having done his duty into an intellectual patent of 
nobility. He must not think himself a conqueror because he 
has learned to use his weapons fairly well : the battle is all to 
begin yet. 

In this year a vacancy occurred in the Georgia representation 
in Congress by the resignation of the Hon. Mark A. Cooper, who 
had been nominated by the Democrats as their candidate for 
Governor. To fill this vacancy the Hon. James H. Starke, 
of Butts County, was nominated by the Democrats, and Mr. 
Stephens by the Whigs. The platform of the Whig party was 
substantially the same as that laid down in the Minority Report 
previously quoted. Mr. Crawford was the Whig candidate for 
Governor. 

The nomination, though unsought, was accepted, and he pre 
pared himself for an active campaign, having a majority of about 
three thousand to overcome. The personal influence that he was 
able to exercise was never shown to greater advantage than 
during this campaign. His peculiarly youthful appearance, his 
slender figure and boyish voice, contrasted so strangely with the 
energy of his appeals, the cogency of his arguments, the copi 
ousness of his knowledge, and the power and persuasiveness of 
his eloquence, as to give to these a double impressiveness, and to 
astonish as well as convince his hearers. He had formed the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 173 

habit of studying with the most minute and unwearied diligence 
the subjects which were to be discussed, and this habit, with his 
singularly retentive memory, caused him never to be at fault, 
and alone was sufficient to make him a most redoubtable antago 
nist. 

In this campaign he met with various humorous adventures, 
and was more than once mistaken for a mere boy, and treated as 
such ; a misconception which he always enjoyed, as there was 
generally an amusing scene of discomfiture when the error was 
discovered. 

It was soon apparent that this boyish speaker possessed to an 
extraordinary degree the power of swaying the multitude, and 
the Democrats, despite their strong majority, began to feel that 
they must exert themselves to the utmost or they would lose the 
election. Accounts came down from the mountains into Middle 
Georgia that this youthful challenger had vanquished every 
opponent who had met him in debate ; so it was thought prudent 
to send an old and proved champion to despatch him at once 
and get him out of the way. Their choice fell upon Walter T. 
Colquitt, then thought the ablest stump-speaker whom Georgia 
had produced, and who is still remembered with admiration by 
those who heard him in the prime of his powers. 

Mr. Stephens had an appointment to speak in the village of 
Newnan. Just before the hour arrived, it was found that Judge 
Colquitt was present, and the Democrats requested that he be 
allowed to take part in the discussion. The Whigs, somewhat 
dismayed at the entrance of this doughty paladin into the affray, 
were about to refuse, when Mr. Stephens interfered, declared 
that it would give him pleasure to meet the judge, and cordially 
invited the latter to share in the debate. It is probable that the 
judge so far underrated the abilities of his antagonist as to be 
less cautious than his custom. Some one, we are told, had fur 
nished him with a copy of the Journals of the Legislature 
marked at those votes of Mr. Stephens which it was thought 
might be used against him. One of these votes was against the 
payment, by Georgia, of pensions to her soldiers who had been 
disabled in the Creek war, and to the widows and orphans of 
those who had fallen ; another was against paying the men en- 



174 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

gaged in Nelson s Florida expedition, by resolution of the House. 
The judge glanced at them hastily, without sufficient examina 
tion of the whole record, and proceeded to introduce them with 
immense emphasis in his speech, appealing to the audience to 
know if they would give their votes to the man who would 
have refused a pension to those who suffered, and to the helpless 
widows and children of those who died in defence of the country. 
The effect on the audience was powerful. Mr. Stephens in reply 
called attention to the fact that these persons were entitled to 
pensions from Congress, pensions to be paid out of the common 
treasury, to which Georgia as well as the other States contributed. 
That while he heartily approved these pensions, he did not see 
the justice of Georgia paying special pensions to her soldiers, who 
were already provided for by Congress for services done to the 
United States, while she was also paying her full quota, not only 
to these, but to the pensions of all the soldiers from other States. 
As to the payment of Nelson s men, he had voted against it 
because it was proposed in an unconstitutional form by a mere 
resolution instead of a regular bill ; and he showed that when 
the same measure was properly introduced he had voted for it. 

But while the judge was speaking, Mr. Stephens had sent for 
the Senate Journal, and after making the above explanation, 
added, that whether his vote was right or wrong, it was not for 
his opponent to censure it, since the Journal in his hand showed 
that he, in his place in the Senate, had voted against the resolu 
tion, just as Mr. Stephens had done in the lower House. This 
entirely turned the tables. The triumph was as complete as 
it was unexpected, the judge and his friends were utterly dis 
comfited, and the Democratic majority in the county was over 
come. This campaign placed Mr. Stephens at once among the 
acknowledged leaders of the Whig party throughout the State. 
The whole Whig Congressional ticket was elected by the largest 
majority given in Georgia for many years ; and thus, at the age 
of thirty-one, Mr. Stephens was chosen to represent his native 
State in the Federal Congress. 

If Mr. Stephens felt any triumph at the attainment of the 
position he now occupied, it was rendered joyless to him by 
severe domestic affliction, the loss of his elder brother, Aaron 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 175 

Gricr. He had always loved this excellent man with more than 
a brother s affection. And this companion during the years of 
childhood and orphanage, the yoke-fellow under the burdens of 
poverty and care, the constant attendant in all those seasons of 
sickness, each of which seemed the harbinger of death, had 
grown to love him better than all the world. By industry and 
frugality he had accumulated a moderate fortune, had married 
and settled on a plantation in the same county. His death 
.occurred a few days after the election. 

No human being, except Linton, still almost too young to 
enter into full sympathy with him, knew the depth of grief 
that this bereavement brought to Alexander Stephens. If there 
be any time when the loss of an old and beloved friend causes 
a keener pang than at any other, it is when that loss comes just 
at the opening of brighter fortunes after a period of adversity 
which the lost one had shared, and which his exertions had 
helped to retrieve. When two have borne together sufferings 
and toils, and shared in the hope of better days, and these better 
days, when they come, come but to one, that one feels an 
anguish that he could not have felt if his companion had left 
him in the depth of their trial, or after long enjoyment of the 
reward. What, then, must have been the pain to a man in whom 
fraternal affection was the deepest and most absorbing passion 
of his nature? Yet at this time the public thought the young 
Congressman one of the happiest of men. 

Without possessing the unusual vigor of intellect of his 
brothers, Grier Stephens was a man of no mean abilities. In 
disposition he was the most gentle, the most kindly-natured of 
men, and all who knew him loved him. He left a widow and 
one child. The latter did not long survive him, but the widow 
lives and has never remarried. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

Debate in Congress Humors of Mr. Cobb Correspondence Presidential 
Canvass Anecdotes. 

ON the night of his arrival in Washington Mr. Stephens was 
attacked by severe illness, which lasted about, two weeks. His 
first speech on the floor of the House was upon a question which 
touched him and his col leagues very nearly, their right to their 
seats. It has been mentioned that the Georgia Legislature re 
fused to comply with the requirements of Congress that the 
State should be divided into Congressional districts, on the 
ground that such a requirement infringed that clause in the 
Constitution reserving to the State the right to prescribe "the 
times, places, and manner of holding elections for Senators and 
Representatives." Mr. Stephens favored the district system ; 
but, as it was not adopted, he was elected upon u general ticket." 
The question then arose in the House whether members thus 
elected were entitled to seats ; and it was referred to a com 
mittee, the majority of which reported (1) that the second 
section of the Act of June, 1842, for the apportionment of 
Representatives among the States according to the sixth census, 
"is not a law made in pursuance of the Constitution of the 
United States, and valid, operative, and binding upon the 
House." And (2) that all the members of the House (excepting 
the contested cases from Virginia, on which no opinion was 
expressed) " have been duly elected in conformity with the 
Constitution and laws, and are entitled to their seats in this 
House." 

In the debate which followed, Mr. Stephens spoke against the 
adoption of the report. He argued that Congress possessed the 
power, under the Constitution, of regulating these elections ; 
that the law in question was a proper exercise of that power ; 
and that it applied to the cases of himself and his colleagues. 
176 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. ]-JJ 

He very distinctly expressed his unalterable opposition to any 
invasion by the Federal Government of the rights of the States, 
but lie as distinctly upheld the supremacy of that Government 
in its legitimate sphere. The fact that he was arguing against 
his own right to a seat had no influence upon him : it was his 
duty to maintain what he believed to be right and justice. The 
tenor of his argument and nature of his position will appear 
from the following extract: 

" There is, Mr. Speaker, another particular also in which I do not agree 
with the gentleman from Mississippi. He says that if he believed the 
second section of the Apportionment Act to be constitutional, he would not 
consent, coming as he does from a State electing by general ticket, to hold 
his seat in this House. Now, sir, I come from a State electing in the same 
way ; and I believe the section of the act alluded to, and now under con 
sideration, to be a constitutional law ; and that it ought to be considered 
as operative and valid, touching the elections of members, in the organiza 
tion of this House. Entertaining these opinions, I have been asked how 
I could consistently retain my seat as a member of this body, sworn as I 
am to support the Constitution. My answer is. that I submit the question 
to this House, the constitutional tribunal, for its decision. This, sir, is a 
constitutional question which individually concerns me but little ; but one 
in which the people of the State I have the honor in part to represent, as 
well as the people of all the States, have a deep interest; and one in the 
settlement of which the same people have a right to be heard. The people 
of Georgia, sir, have a right to representation here, either by the general 
ticket or district system. A majority of that people, I believe, agree with 
me that the district system, under existing laws, is the legal and proper 
one. And here I would respectfully dissent from the opinion of one of 
my colleagues [Mr. Black], expressed on a former occasion, that the 
people of that State were united upon this subject, and that the prevailing 
opinion of both parties was in favor of the general ticket. I think if there 
is any one particular in which both parties of that State are more nearly 
agreed than upon any other, it is the district system. 

" The question involved in the subject now under consideration is one 
upon which great difference of opinion seems to prevail ; and it is one 
neither for me nor a majority of the people of Georgia, but for this House 
to determine. This House, by the Constitution, is made the sole judge of 
the elections, returns, and qualifications of its members, and if you say 
that the members elected by general ticket are legally and properly re 
turned, your decision, by the Constitution, is final and conclusive upon the 
subject ; and, in that event, a majority of the people of Georgia say I am 
to be one of their representatives ; and if you say the law of Congress is 
valid, and ought to be regarded as such, why, the present delegation will 

12 



178 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

retire, and another will be sent according to the provisions of the existing 
law of the State. In either event, the people, if represented at all, ought 
certainly to be represented by those of their own choice. 

" I have been told by some that my position was like that of a suitor at 
court, who claims a hearing, and at the same time denies his right. By 
no means, sir. My position is more like that of the representative of a 
suitor at court, when there is no doubt as to the right of recovery, but some 
difference of opinion as to the right way to be pursued in obtaining it, and 
which is not to be settled by the suitor or his representative, but by the 
court. 

" Is a man to be deprived of his rights because he may differ from the 
court as to the proper form of action to be brought? Or, are a people to 
be disfranchised because they may differ from this House as to the proper 
and legal mode of election ? When a man is sworn to support a consti 
tution, sir, which provides for its own amendment, I hold he is as much 
bound to support an amendment, when made in pursuance thereof, as he 
was to support the original constitution 5 and when he is sworn to support 
a constitution which provides a tribunal for the settlement of any class of 
cases arising under it, where differences of opinion may prevail, he is as 
much bound to acquiesce in the decision of such tribunal when made, and 
to the extent made, until reversed, in any case so arising, as he was bound 
to be governed by his own opinions in relation to it before. This, sir, is 
one of the first principles of all societies, and part of the obligation of 
every individual implied when he becomes a citizen of government, or 
takes the oath of allegiance. Else, why should there be a tribunal to 
decide such questions, if obedience and acquiescence to the decision, when 
made, should not be regarded, in every sense of propriety, right and 
proper, both politically and morally ? 

"Sir, without this rule there could be no order and no government; 
but every man would set up his own judgment or a much less safe guide, 
his own conscience as the rule of his own acts ; and the most lawless 
anarchy would be the result." 

The alleged inconsistency between his views upon the law 
and his accepting a seat in Congress through an election which 
set that law at defiance, led to some sharp criticism by his col 
league in the House, the Hon. AV. H. Stiles. The attacks of 
this gentleman were answered with corresponding spirit, and for 
a while serious consequences were apprehended. 

For the small details of personal history at this time we must 
again recur to the letters. On March 3d he gives an account of 
a walk taken that afternoon with Lumpkin and Cobb. Mr. 
Cobb had a great love of humor, and an almost boyish fondness 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 170 

for a practical joke, which he retained throughout his life, in 
adverse as well as prosperous fortunes. 

" While we were passing the row of hacks at the depot waiting for the 
evening cars, he said to Lumpkin aloud, Here, Lumpkin, you can get a 
hack here. In a moment about twenty hackrnen were around Lumpkin, 
crying, * Want a hack, sir? Hack, sir? Here s a hack, sir! Cobb 
walked on, as if he had done no mischief, leaving Lumpkin to explain 
himself out of the difficulty, for half of them seemed to consider it a clear 
engagement." 

On March 10th we learn that the affair with Mr. Stiles has 
ended, fortunately, without a hostile meeting, and even without 
a challenge. Good feeling has not quite returned, however, as 
he reports himself on friendly terms with all the members from 
Georgia except Mr. Stiles. He wants Linton s opinion upon 
his rejoinder to that gentleman. About this time Linton had 
removed to Washington, Georgia, and was reading law with Mr. 
Toombs. 

On April 22d he writes : " At this time little or nothing is 
spoken of here but the Tariff and Texas." [Question of the 
admission of Texas.] "I have just seen a letter of Mr. Clay 
to the editors of the National Intelligencer, defining his position 
on the Texas question. He is against the Treaty, involving as 
it does, in his opinion, a war with Mexico. It is very full, clear, 
and satisfactory/ 

April 23d. " We had a rare show in the House to-day." 
This was a fight between White, of Kentucky, and Kathbone. 
Some one had reported that Mr. Clay had said, u We must have 
some sort of slaves in order to keep our wives arid daughters out 
of the kitchen." White characterized the report as false, and 
Rathbone, who had endorsed it, assaulted him. 

May Jfli. He has just returned from the Whig Convention 
at Baltimore, to which he was a delegate, and writes approvingly 
and hopefully of the ticket, Clay and Frelinglmysen. " But 
one feeling, one spirit, and one hope animated and inspired every 
heart in the countless thousands. . . . Not much now said about 
Texas. The Treaty will get but few votes in the Senate." Then 
follows another joke of Cobb s. " You know that the hack- 
drivers profess to know every house in town. A day or two ago 



180 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Cobb walked up to one of them and asked if he could drive him 
to Mr. McFadden s. t Yes, sir/ was the ready answer. Cobb 
hopped in, and off rolled the hack. After a while the driver 
asked, Where was it you wanted to go ? To Mr. McFadden s. 
1 What street does he live on? I don t know. You told me 
you could drive me there, and you must/ So he had a long 
drive, all over town, the driver inquiring everywhere for Mr. 
McFadden." 

On the 7th of May Mr. Stephens spoke on the subject of the 
Tariff. " I had better attention," he writes, on the next day, 
" if possible, than I had when speaking on the district system. 
. . . The Treaty remains in the hands of the Committee on 
Foreign Relations." 

The Tariff question being settled, parties prepare for a great 
struggle on the Texas question. Great confusion is expected in 
the approaching Democratic Convention, the South being irre 
concilable to Van Buren, and the North to Benton. 

" May 27th. This day. eight years ago, I was in this city for the first 
time. What changes have taken place in the world without and the world 
within since that time ! Who can tell what changes are in store for the 
next eight years to come ? (l?the curtain could be raised, what disclosures, 
what griefs, what troubles anfi cares and deeds of death would be seen ! 
What phantoms our hopes and ambitions would seem to 



May 28th. Is scribbling whatever comes into his mind while 
waiting for the result of the ballotings at Baltimore. Among 
other things he alludes to something Linton has said of a friend 
of his being in love, and the effects of that passion upon him. 
" He that loves hard cares but little what he eats. His passion 
is his sustenance, as most passions are when they take posses 
sion of the soul. Osceola, when a prisoner from violated faith, 
pining and refusing nourishment, was asked why he did not 
take food, replied, 

" I feed on hate, nor think my diet spare ! 

" I do not know but that he who feeds on hate has quite as 
nourishing a diet as he who feeds on love." 

Most of the other letters written during this summer are from 
the various places in the State at which he has been addressing 
the people in the Presidential canvass. He threw his whole 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

energies into it, and worked as zealously for the election of Mr. 
Clay as any other man in the party. At the village of Forsyth, 
he again met his old opponent, Judge Colquitt, and (in the 
opinion of his friends at least) obtained even a more signal 
triumph over that gentleman than at his first encounter. 

When Mr. Stephens went to Washington, in the winter, to at 
tend Congress, Linton went to the Law School of the University 
of Virginia. The correspondence was now actively kept up. 
On December 5th he expresses a suspicion that arrangements 
will be made between Southern and Northern Democrats, by 
which the former will consent to the Tariff, and the latter will 
agree to let in Texas. "So the monster will be grinned at a 
little longer and endured, while we shall have a great addition 
to the area of freedom." He advises his brother to keep clear 
of politics for the present, and is more than half inclined to 
recommend that the abstention shall be perpetual. 

December 10th. " Mr. Adams s final triumph was to-day, when he pre 
sented his petitions for the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, 
and had them referred to the Committee on the District. You ought to 
have seen him on the announcement of the vote. He laughed outright : 
not loud, but with a full expression. By the by, Judge McLean tells a 
good anecdote of him. Some years ago, in some flirt, Rhett arose and 
moved that all the Southern members should leave the House, and started 
out himself. Mr. Adams stopped short in his speech, looked at llhett 
across the room, as he was followed by some others, and said, with a 
peculiar expression, What, you won t play with us any longer, eh? " 

December 20th. li Judge Story says that the Republican party to which 
he was attached in 1806 and 1809 is extinct now. To tell the truth, I had 
done him injustice ; for I always thought he was a Federalist, but it is not 
so. He was opposed to Adams, was a Republican, was a Jeifersonian, and 
was appointed judge under Madison or Monroe. He used to be in Con 
gress the only Republican from Massachusetts ; and he further says that 
most of the old Federalists now are with the Democratic party, that is, 
those of them who are alive. But he says that the Republican party is 
extinct; that he has ceased to be surprised at anything: laughs and talks 
as gayly as a boy. Says he is like the Irishman who went to see the fire 
works, when, after some displays, a cask of powder exploded accidentally, 
and blew up everything. He found himself in a garden, and on coming 
to himself, said, What in the divil will you show next ! " 

December 22d. . . . " Judge Story says that he never told but one 
anecdote, and he used to tell that upon all occasions until AVebster stole it 



OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

from him, and once had the impudence to tell it in his presence. After 
that he foreswore anecdotes. This, of course, was all fudge, for he is 
always telling anecdotes. . . . Ewing is a great hand at puns. For in 
stance, this morning at the table, in speaking of the abilities of the lawyers 
and judges of England, . . . and among them Scarlett, Ewing remarked 
that he was certainly the deepest red man of any of them." 

During this year, as has been seen, Mr. Stephens did not take 
any very prominent part in the business of Congress. He was 
studying men and measures, and getting himself ready for his 
future work. Almost every night he wrote to Linton, and some 
times twice a day. The letters treat of almost every conceivable 
subject, politics, the business of the House, the incidents of the 
day, the chat of society, the men he meets, books, morals, phi 
losophy, and the weather. He never loses an opportunity to 
convey, in some guise or other, salutary counsel to his beloved 
brother ; and the letters overflow with expressions of tenderest 
affection. Notwithstanding the frequent touches of humor, a tinge 
of melancholy pervades the whole correspondence ; and the suc 
cess he has thus far achieved neither gives a brighter coloring to 
life in his eyes nor exalts him in his own estimation. Notwith 
standing the close intimacy of these letters, we find in them no 
half-congratulations, no pardonable taking of credit, no expres 
sion of hopes for the future. Life is passing ; he is doing his 
duty in the short space that he thinks allotted to him, for the 
night is coming in which no man can work. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

Judge Story Mr. Clay A Great Crowd Annexation of Texas Speech 
on Brown s Resolutions Oregon Anecdote of General Clinch. 

MR. STEPHENS begins the new year, 1845, with a letter of 
eight pages to his brother. Among other things, Linton has 
asked his opinion of the comparative abilities of Marshall and 
Story, and he pronounces in favor of the former, though admit 
ting that he has read but little of the writings of the latter. 
He gives an anecdote of Marshall, which Story told as having 
occurred in a case involving the constitutionality of the United 
States Bank. " Chapman Johnson, who was arguing upon the 
side to which the Chief Justice s views were supposed to be ad 
verse, after a three days argument, wound up by saying that he 
had one last authority which he thought the court would admit 
to be conclusive. He then read from the reports of the debates 
in the Virginia Convention what Marshall himself had said upon 
the subject, when the adoption of the Constitution was discussed. 
At this, Story says, Marshall drew a long breath with a sort 
of sigh. After the court adjourned he rallied the Chief Justice 
on his uneasiness, and asked him why he sighed/ to which 
Marshall replied, Why, to tell you the truth, I was afraid I 
had said some foolish thing in the debate ; but it was not half 
so bad as I expected/ Story indulges in a great many such 
anecdotes." 

January 19th. "Last night Mr. Clay made a show on the Colonization 
question, and such a show I never saw before. Men came from Balti 
more, Philadelphia, and New York, to say nothing of Alexandria and this 
city. The House and galleries were jammed and crammed before five 
o clock. "NVhen I came over at half-past six, I found I could not get in at 
the door below, much less get up the steps leading to the House. The 
people were wedged in as tight as th^y could be squeezed, from outside 
the door all the way up the steps, and the current could neither move up 
nor down. There were several thousands still outside. I availed myself 

183 



134 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

of my knowledge of the meanderings of an intricate, narrow passage 
under the rotunda, and round by the Supreme Court room, into the alley 
from the Clerk s room, into the House at the side-door by the House post- 
office ; and through this Mr. Cobb and I, with Robinson, of Indiana, wound 
our way, finding it unobstructed until we got to the door, where the crowd 
was as tight as human bodies could be jammed ; but we drove through 
the solid mass and got in, and passed on the space by the fire to the left 
of the Speaker s chair, where, by looking over the screen, we could see 
the chair. When we got to this place, what a sight was before our eyes ! 
The great new chandelier, lighted up with gas, was brilliant and splendid 
indeed ; and then, what a sea of heads and faces ! Every nook and corner 
on the floor below, and the galleries above, the aisles, the area, the steps 
on the Speaker s rostrum, were running over. The crowd was pushed 
over the railing, and men were standing on the outside cornice all around ; 
and they were even hanging on the old clock and the figure of Time. Such 
a sight you never saw. None in the hall could turn : women fainted and 
had to be carried out over the solid mass. At about seven Clay came, but 
could hardly be got in. The crowd, however, after a while was opened, 
while the dome resounded with uninterrupted hurrahs. . . . After a while 
order was restored. . . . Dayton, of New Jersey, offered a resolution and 
began speaking ; but one fellow crying Clay ! Clay ! the cry became gen 
eral, and soon also became general with, Put him down ! Put him out ! 
f Pitch him out of the window ! but Dayton held out and kept speaking 
until he was literally drowned with, Down ! down ! Hush ! Clay ! Clay ! 
etc., and then the old hero rose. Three more cheers for Henry Clay were 
suggested, three more ! three more! THREE MORE ! At length quiet reigned. 
Clay began speaking, and all were silent. Of his speech I say nothing. 
He was easy, fluent, bold, commanding; but, in my opinion, not eloquent. 
At about nine an adjournment was announced* ... I understand that 
whole acres of people had to go away without getting in at all. Shepperd, 
of North Carolina, whom you know as being more Whiggish than Clayish, 
rather snappishly remarked, when we got to our quarters, that Clay could 
get more men to run after him to hear him speak, and fewer to vote for 
him, than any man in America." 

The great question in Congress this session was that of the 
admission of Texas, for which several plans had been intro 
duced into the House. Of course the subject of slavery entered 
prominently into the motives which influenced the judgment of 
members ; and though the proposed measure was favored by the 
Democrats, there was a considerable number of that party at the 
North opposed to it, on account of the extension of slave-hold 
ing territory which would follow. On the 13th of January, 
Mr. Milton Brown, of Tennessee, introduced a series of joint 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. J85 

resolutions for the admission of Texas as a State, with a pro 
vision that, at some future time, not more than four new addi 
tional States should be formed out of the State of Texas, in 
such of which as should lie south of the " Missouri Compro 
mise" line, slavery should be optional with the people ; and in 
such as should be north of that line, slavery should be pro 
hibited. This provision was strictly in conformity with the 
terms of the Compromise, was indeed the very point agreed 
to, yet the party opposed to slavery, in their usual style of 
keeping such pledges, violently opposed the resolutions. 

In the preparation of these resolutions Mr. Brown had con 
sulted with Mr. Stephens, and the resolutions embodied the 
joint views of both. To a number of schemes which were pro 
posed Mr. Stephens objected, and his votes against them caused 
a belief that he was opposed to the admission, until Mr. Brown s 
resolutions came up for action, when he explained his views, in 
his speech of January 25th, which he delivered without prepa 
ration, and, as it were, unexpectedly. He began by explaining 
the objections he had to the treaty proposed by Mr. Ingersoll, 
chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which were that 
it made no definite settlement of the question of slavery in that 
State, and that it provided for the assumption by Congress of 
the debt of Texas. He considered it of vital importance that 
the question of slavery in Texas should be definitely and consti 
tutionally settled, leaving no opportunities for future agitation, 
nor openings for dispute, which had been so perilous in the Mis 
souri question. He then touched upon the language of the 
official correspondence, which placed the admission of Texas 
upon the ground of its being necessary to strengthen the insti 
tution of slavery in the States, as if it were the duty of the 
Federal Government to act and legislate to that end. 

" My objection is, that the General Government has no power to legislate 
for any such purpose. If I understand the nature of this Government, 
and the ground always heretofore occupied by the South upon this subject, 
it is that slavery is peculiarly a domestic institution. It is a matter, that 
concerns the States in which it exists, severally, separately, and exclu 
sively ; and with which this Government has no right to interfere or to 
legislate, further than to secure the enforcement of rights under existing 
guaranties of the Constitution, and to suppress insubordinations and insur- 



186 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

rections if they arise. Beyond this there is no power in the General Gov 
ernment to act upon the subject, with a view either to strengthen or to 
weaken the institution. For, if the power to do one be conceded, how can 
that to do the other be denied? I do not profess to belong to that school 
of politicians who claim one construction of the Constitution one day, 
when it favors my interests, and oppose the same, or a similar one, the 
next day, when it happens to be against me. Truth is fixed, inflexible, 
immutable, and eternal ; unbending to time, circumstances, and interests ; 
and so should be the rules and principles by which the Constitution is 
construed and interpreted. And what has been the position of the South 
for years upon this subject? What has been the course of her members 
upon this floor in relation to the reception of abolition petitions? Has 
it not been that slavery is a question upon which Congress cannot act, 
except in the cases I have stated, where it is expressly provided by the 
Constitution; that Congress has no jurisdiction, if you please, over the 
subject, and that, therefore, it is improper and useless, if not unconstitu 
tional, to receive petitions asking what Congress cannot constitutionally 
grant? This has been the ground assumed by the South, and upon which 
these petitions have been rejected for years by this House, until the rule 
was rescinded at the beginning of this session. And however much gen 
tlemen from different parts of the Union have differed in opinion upon the 
extent of the abstract right of petition, and the propriety and expediency 
of receiving all kinds of petitions, whether for constitutional objects or 
not, yet I believe they have always been nearly all agreed in this, that 
Congress has no right or power to interfere with the institutions of the 
States. This, sir, is our safeguard, and in it is our only security ; it is 
the outpost and bulwark of our defence. Yield this and you yield every 
thing. Grant the power to act or move upon the subject, yield the juris 
diction, call upon Congress to legislate with the view presented in that 
correspondence, and instead of strengthening they might deem it proper 
to weaken those institutions ; and where, then, is your remedy ? I ask 
Southern gentlemen where, then, is their remedy? We were reminded 
the other day by a gentleman from South Carolina [Mr. Holmes] that we 
were in a minority on this floor. It is true we are in a minority ; and is 
it wise in a minority to yield their strong position, their sure and safe 
fortress, to the majority, for them to seize and occupy to their destruction ? 
No, sir; never. Upon this subject I tell gentlemen from the South, and 
the people of the South, to stand upon the Constitution as it is, and that 
construction which has been uniformly given to it upon this point, from 
the beginning of the Government. CThis is our shield, wrought in the 
furnace of the Revolution. (JQs broad, ample, firm, and strong; and we 
want no further protection or security than it provides^ 

The speaker then proceeds to notice the objections to the pro 
posed admission. As to any difficulties that foreign powers 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

may make, be considers them as answered by the fact that 
Texas is now an independent sovereign power, and in conse 
quence entitled to negotiate for herself without foreign inter 
ference. He then proceeds to answer the member from New 
York, who had said that the measure was "a fraud upon the 
Constitution." 

" When I cast iny eyes, Mr. Chairman, over the surface of the world, 
and survey the nations of the earth, and see that the people of the United 
States alone, of all the millions of the human family who live upon the 
habitable globe, are really free and fully enjoy the natural rights of man ; 
that all other parts are dreary, wild, and waste; and that this is the only 
green spot, the only oasis in the universal desert, and then consider that 
all this difference is owing to our Constitution ; that all our rights, privi 
leges, and interests are secured by it, I am disposed to regard it with no 
trifling feelings of unconcern and indifference. It is, indeed, the richest 
inheritance ever bequeathed by patriot sires to ungrateful sons. I confess 
I view it with reverence ; and, if idolatry could ever be excused, it seems 
to me it would be in allowing an American citizen a holy devotion to the 
Constitution of his country. Such are my feelings ; and far be it from 
me to entertain sentiments in any way kindred to a disregard for its prin 
ciples, much less in contempt for its almost sacred provisions." 

He next comes to the specific objection that there was no 
power given to the United States, in their Federal capacity, to 
"acquire territory." 

" Suppose I grant his position and his premises entirely, does his con 
clusion, in reference to the proposition I advocate, necessarily follow? 
Do the resolutions of the gentleman from Tennessee propose to acquire 
territory? We are often misled by the use of words. . . . We have had 
annexation and l reannexation, and acquisition of territory, until 
there is a confusion of ideas between the object desired and the manner 
of obtaining it. To acquire conveys the idea of property, possession, and 
the right of disposition. And to acquire territory conveys the idea of get 
ting the rightful possession of vacant and unoccupied lands. If this be 
the sense in which the gentleman uses it, I ask, does the plan of the gen 
tleman from Tennessee propose to do any such thing? It is true it pro 
poses to enlarge and extend the limits and boundaries of our Republic. 
But how? By permitting another State to come into the Union with all 
her lands and her territory belonging to herself. The Government will 
acquire nothing thereby, except the advantages to be derived from the 
union. And if I understand the original substantial design of the Con 
stitution, the main object of its creation, it was not to acquire territory, it 
is true, but to form a union of States, a species of confederacy 5 conferring 



158 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

upon the joint government of the confederation, or union, the exercise of 
such sovereign powers as were necessary for all foreign national purposes, 
and retaining all others in the States, or the people of the States, respect 
ively. This was the design, this was the object of the Constitution itself, 
which is but the enumeration of the terms upon which the people of the 
several States agreed to join in the union for the purposes therein specified ; 
and in this way all the States came into it, Georgia among the rest, with 
her rich western domain extending to the Mississippi, out of which two 
States have since grown up, and have been likewise admitted. When the 
Government was first formed, North Carolina and Rhode Island refused to 
come in for some. time. It was not until after it was organized and com 
menced operations, by eleven of the States, that these two consented to 
become members of the Union. Could the United States, those eleven 
which first started this General Government, be said to have acquired ter 
ritory when North Carolina was admitted ? or the twelve which composed 
the United Stated when Rhode Island came in ? There was in each of 
those cases an addition of a State and enlargement of the confederated 
Republic, just as there will be if Texas be admitted, as proposed by the 
gentleman from Tennessee ; but no acquisition of territory in the common 
acceptation of that term." 

He then proceeds briefly to show that the United States could 
constitutionally acquire territory, though that was not the case 
at present, when the proposition was to admit a new State into 
the union of States. He then takes up the argument for the 
proposition. 

" The authority on which I rely is no forced construction, but the plain, 
simple language of the Constitution, which declares that 

"New States maybe admitted by Congress into this Union j but no 
new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other 
State ; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or 
parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States con 
cerned as well as of Congress. 

" The terms here used are broad, unqualified, and unrestricted. i New 
States may be admitted by Congress into this Union. But it is said that 
it was only meant by these words to give the power to admit States 
formed out of the territory of the United States, and within their juris 
diction, and not to include a foreign State. To this I might reply that it 
is a petitio principii, a begging of the question. Whether that was the 
meaning and intention is the main inquiry ; and from the words used 
no such inference can be drawn. But the gentleman from New York 
says he believes that was the meaning and intention ; and further, 
that he believes if any other opinion had been entertained the Consti 
tution would never have been ratified. Well, sir, his belief is not argu- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 189 

merit. . . . We are taught that we should not only believe, but be able 
to give a reason for the faith that is in us. And here again I listened 
for the reasons of the gentleman s faith, but heard nothing better than a 
repetition of his belief. 

" Let us, then, examine the matter. If there is any difficulty, we must 
look to the words, the objects, and contemporaneous history. As to the 
words, they are quite unambiguous. The term State is a technical word, 
well understood at that time. It means a body politic, a community 
clothed with all the powers and attributes of government. And any 
State, even one of those growing up in the bosom of our own territory, 
upon admission, may be considered to some extent foreign. For if it be 
a State, it must have a government separate from, and to some degree 
independent of, the Union. For if it be in the Union, then it could not 
be admitted ; that cannot be admitted in which is already in. And if it 
is a State, and out of the Union, seeking admission, it must be considered 
quoad hoc to be foreign. Now, as to contemporaneous and subsequent 
history. What relation did North Carolina hold to the Union under the 
new organization of 1787 ? She refused to ratify the Constitution, and 
was most clearly out of it. The last article of the Constitution declared, 

" The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for 
the establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying/ 

" But more than nine ratified : eleven did ; leaving North Carolina and 
Rhode Island out, as before stated. The Union was formed, and the 
Constitution established for those that had ratified, and the Government 
proceeded to organization. North Carolina was then certainly out of the 
Union. She had the right and power to remain out. If she had, would 
she not have been foreign to it? And, consequently, was she not foreign 
whenever the Government went into operation under the new Constitution 
without her ratification? The case of Vermont is more in point. She 
was a separate and independent community, with a government of her 
own. She was not even one of the original revolting thirteen colonies. 
She had never been united in the old Confederation, and did not recognize 
the jurisdiction of the United States." 

[Here Mr. Col lamer, of Vermont, objected that Vermont at 
that time did recognize the authority of the United States.] 

MR. STEPHENS. "Yes, sir; but not over her. She recognized the 
authority of the United States as we do that of France or England, or any 
other foreign power. She was a distinct, independent government within 
herself. She had her own constitution, her own legislature, her own 
executive, judiciary, and military establishment, and exercised all the facul 
ties of a sovereign and independent State. She had her own post-office 
department and revenue laws and regulations of trade. The United States 
did not attempt to exercise any jurisdiction over her. The gentleman from 
Vermont says that New York claimed jurisdiction over her, and finally gave 



190 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

her consent for the admission of Vermont as a State. This is true. But 
Vermont did not recognize the jurisdiction of New York ; she bade de 
fiance to it. And after years had rolled on in this situation, she treated 
with New York as one sovereign treats with another, and paid thirty 
thousand dollars to New York for a relinquishment of that jurisdiction 
which she would not allow to be exercised, and was then admitted into 
the Union as one of the States. These are the facts of that case." 

The speaker, after refuting some other objections, proceeds to 
give the reasons that induce him to advocate the proposition. 
These are: the kindred and sympathy of the two peoples; the 
advantage of having all the cotton- and sugar-growing interests 
of the continent united and subject to the same laws ; the im 
portance of having no difficulties or inequalities in the commerce 
which found its outlet by the Mississippi ; the desirableness of 
opening this vast and fertile territory to our accumulating or 
migrating population, which they might people and build up 
without forfeiting their American citizenship. He thus con 
cludes : 

"With this question is also to be decided another and a graver one; 
which is, whether the limits of the Republic are ever to be enlarged? 
This is an important step in settling the principle of our future extension. 
Nor do I concur with gentlemen who seem to apprehend so much danger 
from that quarter. We were the other day reminded by the gentleman 
from Vermont of the growth of the Roman Empire, which went on increas 
ing and enlarging until it became unwieldy and fell of its own weight ; 
and of the present extent of England, stretching to all sections of the world, 
governing one-sixth of the human family, and which is now hardly able 
to keep together its extensive parts. But there is a wide difference 
between these cases. Rome extended her dominions by conquests. She 
made the rude inhabitants of her provinces subjects and slaves. She 
compelled them to bear the yoke: jngum subire was the requisition of her 
chieftains. England extends her dominion and power upon a different 
principle. Hers is the principle of colonization. Her distant provinces 
and dependencies are subject to her laws, but are deprived of the rights 
of representation. But with us a new system has commenced, suited to 
and characteristic of the age. It is, if you please, the system of a Con 
federation of States, or a republic formed by the union of the people of 
separate independent States or communities, yielding so much of the 
national character or sovereign powers as are necessary for national and 
foreign purposes, and retaining all others for local and domestic objects 
to themselves separately and severally. And who shall undertake to say 
to what extent this system may not go ? . . . 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 191 

"We live, sir, not only in a new hemisphere, but, indeed, in a new age; 
and we have started a new system of government, as new and as different 
from those of the old world as the Baconian system of philosophy was 
novel and different from the Aristotelian, and destined, perhaps, to pro 
duce quite as great a revolution in the moral and political world as his did 
in the scientific. Ours is the true American system ; and though it is still 
regarded by some as an experiment, yet, so far, it has succeeded beyond 
the expectations of many of its best friends. And who is prepared now 
to rise up and say, Thus far it shall go, and no farther ? 

" But I am in favor of this measure for another reason. It is, as the 
honorable chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs said in his open 
ing speech, in one sense and in one view, a sectional question, a Southern 
question. It will not promote our pecuniary interests, but it will give us 
political weight and importance ; and to this view I am not insensible. 
And though I have a patriotism that embraces, I trust, all parts of the 
Union, which causes me to rejoice to see all prosperous and happy ; and 
though I believe I am free from the influence of unjust prejudices and 
jealousies toward any part or section, yet I must confess that my feelings 
of attachment are most ardent towards that with which all my interests 
and association are identified. And is it not natural and excusable that 
they should be ? The South is my home my fatherland. There sleep 
the ashes of my sires ; there are my hopes and prospects ; with her my 
fortunes are cast ; her fate is my fate, and her destiny my destiny. Nor 
do I wish to hoax gentlemen from other sections upon this point, as some 
have intimated. I am candid and frank in my acknowledgment. This 
acquisition will give additional power to the southwestern section in the 
national councils ; and for this purpose I want it, not that I am desirous 
to see an extension of the i area of slavery, as some gentlemen have said 
its effects would be. I am no defender of slavery in the abstract. Liberty 
always had charms for me, and I would rejoice to see all the sons of Adam s 
family, in every land and clime, in the enjoyment of those rights which 
are set forth in our Declaration of Independence as natural and inalien 
able, if a stern necessity, bearing the marks and impress of the hand of 
the Creator himself, did not, in some cases, interpose and prevent. Such 
is the case with the States where slavery now exists. But I have no wish 
to see it extended to other countries ; and if the annexation of Texas were 
for the sole purpose of extending slavery where it does not now and would 
not otherwise exist, I should oppose it. This is not its object, nor will it 
be its effect. Slavery already exists in Texas, and will continue to exist 
there. The same necessity that prevails in the Southern States prevails 
there, and will prevail wherever the Anglo-Saxon and African races are 
blended in the same proportions. It matters not, so far as this institution 
is concerned, in the abstract, whether Texas be in the Union or out of it. 
That, therefore, is not my object : but it is the political advantages it will 
secure, with the questions settled as proposed, leaving no door open for 



192 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

future agitation, and thus preserving a proper balance between the dif 
ferent sections of the country. This is my object-, and is it not proper 
and right? 

" If we look around, we see the East, by her economy, her industry, and 
enterprise, by her commerce, navigation, and mechanic arts, growing opu 
lent, strong, and powerful. The West, which a few years ago was nothing 
but an unbroken wilderness, embracing the broad and fertile valley of the 
Mississippi, where the voice of civilization was never heard, is now teem 
ing with its millions of population. The tide of emigration, still rolling 
in that direction, has already reached the base of the Rocky Mountains, 
and will soon break over those lofty barriers, and be diffused in the exten 
sive plains of Oregon. Already the West vies for the ascendancy on this 
floor, and why should not the South also be advancing? Are her limits 
never to be enlarged, and her influence and power never to be increased ? 
Is she to be left behind in this race for distinction and aggrandizement, if 
you please ? As one of her sons, I say, No. Let her, too, enter the glorious 
rivalry; not with feelings of strife, jealousy, or envy, such sentiments 
are not characteristic of her people, but with aspirations prompted by 
the spirit of a laudable emulation and an honorable ambition." 

The vote was taken on the resolutions the same day, and they 
were carried by a vote of 120 to 98, seven Southern Whigs, 
among whom was Mr. Stephens, uniting with the Northern 
Democrats. These seven were afterwards held up to odium by 
the Whig party throughout the country, and denounced with 
bitter malignity as traitors to the party. In the Senate, an alter 
native proposition was offered by Mr. Benton, subject to the 
President s approval. This was agreed to by the House, and 
finally the matter was placed in President Tyler s hands, who 
approved the House proposition on the 1st of March, and at 
once despatched a messenger with it to Texas, thus accomplish 
ing a measure which added a new State, with two hundred and 
seven thousand five hundred and four square miles of territory 
to the Union, just at the close of his term of office. 

Mr. Stephens s remarks in this speech, to the effect that he 
was l( no defender of slavery in the abstract," gave rise to some 
bitter denunciation throughout the South, and were interpreted 
by some to mean that he was opposed to the system of African 
slavery as it existed in the Southern States. But the context 
showed that he there as elsewhere held that where an inferior 
rac&like the African co-existed with the white race, the welfare 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 193 

of both required that the inferior should be in subordination to 
the superior. He boldly and triumphantly defended his position 
in every subsequent campaign in his State, maintaining that this 
" peculiar institution," as it was termed at the South, the right 
to the service of a certain class of persons, was not slavery as 
denned in public law and the Justinian code, but only the legal 
subordination of an inferior to a superior race, with a view to 
the best interests of both. 

Under date of January 30th we find a long letter, chiefly 
about Oregon, which he considers next in importance to the 
Texas question. He is, however, somewhat apprehensive of a 
war with Great Britain in this case, Oregon being at that time 
in the joint occupation of the two powers, under the provisions 
of the Treaty of Washington. He remarks, " The North, old 
Adams at their head, I think, will be among the foremost to 
bring about a collision with England. They now want war. 
That is the way, they think, to a dissolution of the Union. 77 

February 23d. He has been to a dinner-party where some 
good jokes were told; among others, one on General Clinch, of 
Georgia, who was present. " Some time ago, upon a call of the 
House, the general was not present at first, but came in (having 
been sent for) just as he heard his name called by the Clerk ; and 
all vexed and mad, and puffing and blowing, answered to his 
name at the top of his voice, NO ! I said to him, General, 
say Here ; it is a call of the House -, to which he replied, l Oh, 
d n it, I don t care. I m against all they do, anyhow ! " 



l . 



CHAPTER XIX. 

Domestic Arrangements Trip to Florida Home News and Surgical 
Practice Deaths of Friends A " Keal Soaker" Election of Governor 
Crawford. 

SOON after reaching home, he writes Lin ton a long letter, 
giving an account of his return, and the welcome he met from 
all, down to his dog. A lover of dogs he has been all his life, 
and many a passage in his letters shows how strong a hold these 
humble but faithful creatures had upon his affections. The tone 
of the letter is very sad, and it concludes, " I must stop. I feel 
too melancholy to write more. I did not think such feelings 
would press upon me at my return. Those I used to look out 
for on my coming home are not here. They are dead and gone, 
and the thought almost overpowers me." 

The allusion here is not only to his brother, Aaron Grier, but 
to Mr. and Mrs. Bird, to whom he had been greatly attached, 
and who had died this winter. He had been living with them 
for several years. In March, the house and land being put 
up for sale, Mr. Stephens became the purchaser, and began 
housekeeping. In a letter soon after, he gives an account of his 
first experience in this line. 

March 17th. " Since I have been keeping Bachelor s Hall, Bob* (who 
has been running all about town during my absence in Washington) has 
been kept at home more than his wont. He is now the main man upon 
the place; attends to the horse and hogs, brings in breakfast, dinner, and 
supper, pours out the coffee, and waits upon the table. Old Mat cooks, 
and Bob and Pierce do the rest. Who carries the keys I don t know. I 
have laid in a supply of sugar, coffee, tea, etc. ; but where it is kept and 
who keeps it I don t know. . . . Bob told me the other day he would have 
to buy some chickens somewhere before long. I told him to buy them ; 
and we continue to have chicken every day, but I can t tell where they 

* His servant and factotum. 
194 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 195 

come from. To-day I missed Bob at dinner, and was told he had gone to 
mill. So I conclude that we are out of meal, or that Bob wanted to take 
an airing." 

March 20th. He has been on a visit with Cousin Sabrina 
Kay to the old homestead, and at the grave-yard gathered " a 
pale lily and a purple box-vine flower." 

Linton had gone from the University of Virginia to Cam 
bridge, to which point his brother addresses him a letter on 
April 20tli, written at night. 

" The night is lovely beyond description. The moon shines bright, the 
air just stirs enough to rustle slightly among the now full-grown leaves. 
The whippoorwill is heard at a distance, and ever and anon the mocking 
bird sends forth his sweet notes upon the bosom of the breeze. To sit at 
my window and look out upon the sleeping earth is like listening to sweet 
music." 

The letters in June are but few. In the earlier part of the 
month he took a trip to Florida with Mr. Toombs and others. 
On June 30th he writes from home, giving an account of Bob s 
marriage. Bob, it appears, had grown discontented with the 
charges of his laundress, so took a wife as a measure of economy, 
" to get his washing done for less than thrip a piece. So he 
took his clothes over to Rhome s,* and this was the marriage." 

On July 22d the topic of interest is Pup, the dog, who has 
been seized with some strange affection. Next day another 
bulletin is issued : 

" Poor Pup is much worse than he was yesterday. He cannot walk or 
crawl to-day. I think he has lock-jaw. He looks anxiously at all who go 
to see him, and wags his tail when called. I have had him put on the back 
piazza, where he can get water without trouble. I am very fearful that 
the poor fellow who met me so cordially on my return, when I was so filled 
with sadness, will himself be numbered with the dead before another sim 
ilar opportunity occurs. I had become very much attached to the dog, for 
the reason, I suppose, that he was so much attached to me. When I went 
away he was always the first to meet me on my return, and was always so 
glad to see me. If he dies I shall miss him, and shall again feel the truth 
of the maxim that all things here below are vain and illusory." 

On July 27th we have another report : 

* Peter G. Khome, a citizen of the town. 



196 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

" Pup is a little better. I have been giving him shocks from the gal 
vanic battery. He walked ten steps this morning. The shower-bath also 
I have tried upon him, and think that did him most good." 

Under this treatment, we are happy to record, Pup entirely 
recovered, as we learn in a letter of eight pages, seven about 
the weather and one about Pup. 

Early in August there is an accession to the little family, for 
he and John Bird have been living together, and now a young 
friend, George F. Bristow, has begun boarding with them. 
They have also taken into the house a negro boy, Pierce (men 
tioned above), of whom we shall hear more. 

On August 24th we have a dolorous account of a disappoint 
ment of his. He was anxious to be alone, and six men called 
upon him and stayed to dinner. 

" Would you know how I entertained them ? I lay in the little shed 
room most of the time, the company sitting on the back porch, and while 
they talked, I either snored or read Byron. ... I do dislike to be bored 
by company when I wish to be alone ; and if I ever was in that humor 
it was to-day. I longed to be alone, shut out entirely from the world. 
There comes over me sometimes a kind of depression, a sickening at the 
heart, and weariness of life. . . . [Yet there is a pleasure in these indul 
gences. Indeed, what state of mind is without pleasurejy Even rage, 
anger, envy, and hate are pleasant while they are felt. And as for sorrow 
and grief, Solomon says it is better to go to the house of mourning than 
to the house of mirth. Hence the pleasure of witnessing tragedies, which 
is so great that we will even pay to be made to weep. But enough of this. 
Since I commenced writing a little cloud has formed overhead and a little 
to the northeast." 

And he branches off into mere meteorology. Indeed, he has 
had more excuse than usual for watching the weather. It has 
been a summer of terrible drought, and everything is suffering. 
The little cloud to the northeast has brought a slight shower, 
but what is wanted, he says, is " a real soaker." This phrase, 
he explains, is borrowed from an anecdote told by Foster of 
Madison. At some droughty visitation the people had met at a 
country church to pray for rain. " Several of the brethren had 
held forth and prayed for gentle and refreshing showers/ when 
an old sinner who felt a great interest in the matter, got up and 
left the meeting-house, and cursing the whole concern for doing 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 1L STEPHENS. 197 

no better, said he wouldn t give a d n for any gentle and 
refreshing showers ; what he wanted was a real soaker" 

On September 17th he adverts to the news he has just heard 
of the death of Judge Story, and sadly remembers the pleasant 
hours he has spent in his company. 

" I do not know when the death of any person has affected me more 
than that of Judge Story. Last winter I spent my time at Washington 
more agreeably than I thought I ever could spend it at that place : and I 
attributed this almost entirely to the agreeable and companionable quali 
ties of that singular and excellent man. I formed for him a strong at 
tachment, and I promised myself many a hearty laugh with him next 
winter. Alas, that hope is blasted, and it does not now seem that I could 
visit the place of my last winter-quarters, where everything is so associated 
with him, without feelings of the deepest pain. I never saw a man of his 
age so full of life and humor; and judging from his appearance, one would 
have supposed that he would live many long years to come." 

Five days later he again writes from a sorrowful heart. His 
old friend Mr. Bristow, clerk of the court, from whom in his 
earlier days he had received much kindness, has just died. The 
day before Mr. Stephens had paid him a last visit. 

" I never saw," he writes, " a family more deeply distressed. The effect 
of their sorrow upon me was overwhelming. It brought to mind the 
scenes of other days, and the sorrows I have felt. As one and another of 
the children would come in and gaze upon their dying father, I could fully 
realize the intensity of the pang that caused such intensity of sorrow, for 
I too had felt the same. It seemed as fresh in memory as if it had been 
but yesterday, when /stood by the bedside of a dying father and anxiously 
watched his heaving breast. I felt his failing pulse. And when the last 
long breath was drawn with a piteous moan, it seemed as if I too must 
die. It seemed yet fresher than the incidents of yesterday when I saw 
my poor brother But, oh, God ! I cannot write. The slightest thought 
connected with him brings right before me, as plainly and distinctly as in 
real life, all the scenes of that distressing night, and opens afresh all its 
bleeding wounds. Life seems to me to have in it but little good. It is 
made up of lying vanities, an empty and cheating train, and hopes which 
result in nothing but vexation, disappointment, and remorse. . . . But 
enough. It is nearly the time for the funeral service, and I must away to 
see the end of one who has done me many favors." 

This year Crawford (Whig) was elected Governor over 
McAllister (Democrat), and in the Legislature the Whigs were 
in a small majority, so small that great caution was necessary in 



198 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

availing themselves of it. The party also was not harmonious 
in the matter of the United States Senatorship; and Berrien 
received so small a vote in caucus that he resigned. Particulars 
are given in a letter of November 10th, in which the writer says 
that he has been two days in Milledgeville, but abstained from 
using any influence, and " left mainly to keep out of the excite 
ment." In another letter he suggests that Lin ton join him in 
Washington in December, and that he then return home and 
begin business in Crawfordville. Sayre will go upon the bench, 
Toombs will go to Congress, Lumpkin is about to remove to 
Athens, and the prospect for a young lawyer on the circuit is 
good. A little bit of domestic news follows. He has settled 
with John L. Bird* and bought the two servants he is now 
employing, Pierce and old Mat, the cook. For the latter he 
pays a rather high price, as she is very old, a hundred dollars : 
but he does not object, because, as he says, John owes him money, 
and is Linton s cousin [not Alexander s], and he likes him. 
Old Mat turned out not a bad bargain after all. 

On November 17th we hear that .Judge Berrien, the late 
Senator, readers will remember the Minority Report, had been 
run by the Whigs to fill the vacancy occasioned by his own 
resignation, and triumphantly elected, getting the vote of every 
Whig present. 

On the 25th he writes from Washington, D. C., where he has 
engaged rooms at his old boarding-house, Mrs. Carter s. He 
went to Judge Story s room, and indulges in mournful memo 
ries of its former occupant, whose cheerful nature and abundant 



* This John L. Bird wont to college with his cousin Linton. Mr. 
Stephens advancing the money for his education, and they graduated 
together. John then read law with Mr. Stephens, and took an office in 
Crawfordville, while Linton went to the University of Virginia and to 
Cambridge. On his return, in 1846, he and his cousin Bird had an office 
together until Linton married and removed to Sparta. John remained 
in Crawfordville as an inmate of Mr. Stephens s family. He rose to dis 
tinction in his profession, represented his senatorial district in the General 
Assembly, and was Senator elect when he died. He was a young man of 
brilliant talents and great promise, when prematurely cut off by consump 
tion, in 1853. This sale of old Mat was in settlement of the balance due 
Mr. Stephens for money advanced for his education. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 199 

humor he had enjoyed so much a year before. " The last time 
I saw the old judge was in that room. It was on the morning I 
left for home last spring, or rather the night before. I went to 
take my leave of him, conversed some time, and he laughed and 
joked all the while. He bade me a hearty and friendly farewell. 
Little did I then think that I should never see him again/ 7 

December 6th. Linton expects to leave Cambridge for home 
in a day or two. So he gives him minute directions how to 
arrange matters, what to do with his trunk, and what precautions 
to take in travelling; for instance, on cars and steamboats to keep 
as far from the engine as possible. Linton will stop in Wash 
ington, so he furnishes special directions how to find Mrs. Car 
ter s. He forgets that this loved brother of his is now a man. 
He has so long watched over him with a fatherly fondness, that 
he feels as if he were still a boy. And yet he might now, when 
Linton is prepared to take his place in the world of men, con 
sider himself acquitted of his guardianship. He has given his 
brother the best education that could be had, far better than he 
had himself enjoyed, has watched over him and guided him 
with the wisdom of a man and the tenderness of a woman. If 
we have quoted, and shall still quote, liberally from these letters, 
it is because this relation between him and his brother was one 
of the leading traits of his life^occupied more of his thoughts 
than any other one subject, alnd unless it be comprehended in all 
its extent and depth, his character will not be rightly understood. 
The younger brother fully repaid the affection thus lavished 
upon him, and nothing loosened the bond between them until it 
was severed by death. 



CHAPTER XX. 

Connexion with the Whigs Opinion of President Polk Disljfyte with 
Mexico War hreaks out Correspondence The Oregon Question 
Opinion of Mr. Calhoun State of Things in Congress Spe ech on the 
Mexican War Letter of Judge McLean Misunderstanding with the 
Hon. Herschel V. Johnson A Challenge sent and refused. 

\MK. STEPHENS S political action at this time was so generally 
in accord with that of the Whigs, that he was universally looked 
to as one of the leaders of that party, though he did not con 
sider himself as pledged to it any further than for the time that 
their measures and policy should have his approbation ;~)nor did 
he consider himself in any way precluded from taking an inde 
pendent course should his judgment so counsel. His action in 
the matter of the admission of Texas had at first excited gen 
eral hostility to him in the Whig press of Georgia, with a dis 
position to denounce him as a traitor, and read him out of the 
party. In less than twelve months that press, as well as the 
entire party in the South, gave his course an explicit endorsement. 

His strong antagonism to Mr. Folk s Administration brought 
him into still closer connexion with the Whigs. In the Presi 
dent himself, as a public officer, he had but little confidence. 
From the conduct of the latter towards Great Britain in the 
matter of the Oregon boundary, Mr. Stephens became convinced 
that he would not shrink even from involving the country in 
war on insufficient grounds for the purpose of strengthening his 
popularity and prolonging his hold of office. These jfews were, 
in his opinion, confirmed by the action of the Administration 
with reference to Mexico. 

This latter country, offended at the proceedings of the United 

States in regard to Texas, whose independence she had never 

acknowledged, withdrew her resident minister, General Almonte, 

and diplomatic intercourse between the two countries ceased. 

200 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 201 

As soon as Texas had accepted the proposition sent out by Presi 
dent Tyler, Mr. Polk sent General Taylor with about five 
thousand United States troops to Corpus Christi, near the mouth 
of the Nueces River, the actual western boundary of Texas, by 
established authority, though the State claimed jurisdiction as 
fur as the Rio Grande del Norte. On the 13th of January, 1846, 
the general was ordered to advance from Corpus Christi to the 
Rio Grande on the disputed territory, which he did, and erected 
a fort within cannon-shot of the Mexican city of Matamoros. 
This was regarded as an act of hostility by the Mexican com 
mander, and the war was begun. Mr. Stephens s course in refer 
ence to this matter we shall presently show ; but for the sake of 
keeping unbroken the chronological order, we now revert to the 
correspondence with Linton. The first letter that we have for 
this year bears date January 9th, and is addressed to him at La- 
grange, where he has been on a visit to his brother John. After 
duly chronicling the weather, he shows a new taste for an old 
subject. 

"Whenever I get time, I will give you a long letter upon the Ancients, 
as I have been closely engaged reading up on that subject lately. Rather, 
I should say, I have been for some time closely studying Ancient History, 
which I never did before. And though, as you know, I have always had 
a high opinion of the men of olden time, you may be surprised when I tell 
you that my late reading has greatly increased my admiration." 

January 9th. The writer is so full of his subject that, although 
he is not at leisure until eleven o clock at night, and has already 
sent off two letters to Linton to-day, he takes his pen again and 
discourses through sixteen pages of long paper on the Ancients. 
These Ancients we find to be, not the Greeks or Romans, but the 
Chaldseans and the Egyptians, compared with whom the former 
may be called modern. He comments at length on the relics of 
their civilization, their temples, pyramids, tombs, etc., and thus 
concludes : 

"You may depend upon it, any people who could do all these things: 
build monuments to survive the ravages of ages, firm almost as the ever 
lasting mountains ; who excavated for themselves a final resting-place in 
the solid rock, covered with paintings relating their history, which time 



202 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

and the elements can never obliterate ; who had even the art of embalm 
ing their dead, and almost of arresting nature s first law of dissolution, 
giving to their mortal clay a kind of immortality, have no equals on the 
earth at this time." 

January llth. Still in his Egyptian researches, but purposes 
now, after renewed reference to the Ancients, to say something 
about the Moderns. 

" I only inclose you two notes of invitation, that you may see how such 
things are done nowadays in this great city, and leave you to consider 
whether the builders of Thebes and Memphis, or the wise men of Babylon, 
with all their learning, ever arrived at such a state of improvement, refine 
ment, and civilization as to do such small matters in such taste. . . . Toombs 
has the floor for to-morrow on the Oregon question. He will make his 
d6but in the House on that subject." 

A splendid debut this was, as will be seen hereafter. 

February 1st, Sunday. " I have just come from a long and lonely walk, 
thinking and musing over many scenes and events long passed and far 
off. These solitary walks I am of late much in the habit of indulging in. 
They afford me the solitude which is congenial to my spirits. The present 
has but little to engage my thoughts or attention, and 

Oft up the stream of time I turn my soul 
To view the fairy haunts of long-lost hours, 
Blest with far greener shades, far fresher flowers. " 

He has been to church twice to-day. Much pleased with 
a sermon from Dr. S., and not at all with one from Dr. D., 
whom he thought neither orthodox nor eloquent. " His prayer 
was the coolest thing of the kind I ever heard. Some fellow 
said that he prayed as if in his address to the Deity he did 
not intend to compromise his self-respect." 

February 8th. He is unwell and keeping his bed, in conse 
quence of a fall. The Oregon question is to come up the next 
day. 

"I suppose the notice will pass, though the correspondence sent in 
yesterday between this Government and Great Britain may cause some to 
vote against the notice who were before inclined to vote for it. It seems 
from that correspondence that Mr. Polk does not intend to permit England 
to question our right to the whole country up to 54 40 . In other words, 
that there is to be no compromise in the matter. This I look upon as a 
position involving the direct issue of war ; and if Congress shall back him 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 203 

up in that particular, war is inevitable. I think that correspondence will 
do more to humble the pride of our country and tarnish our glory than 
anything that has occurred since the organization of the Government. 
For we shall never sustain it. England has rights in Oregon, and we 
shall have to admit them, and the position of our Chief Magistrate will 
have to be abandoned. This will lower us in the eyes of foreign nations. 
Such was never the case before." 

In the latter part of February he left for home, where he 
remained until near the middle of April. On the 17th of that 
month we find him announcing his return to his old quarters in 
Washington. 

May 10th. u The news of a fight between some of our forces in the 
Southwest and the Mexicans reached us last night. It seems that we shall 
have a Mexican war yet. I suppose we shall have a message on the sub 
ject to-morrow. Mr. Polk has been very silent on the subject. I do not 
know myself by what authority General Taylor ever crossed the Nueces 
River. In the Resolution admitting Texas it was expressly provided that 
questions of boundary should be left for adjustment between this country 
and Mexico. The country between the Nueces and Rio Grande del Norte 
was disputed between Mexico and Texas. Texas never did extend her 
jurisdiction over it, and we should have let it remain unoccupied until the 
right to it was settled by negotiation." 

May 13th. " I send you the morning papers giving an account of yes 
terday s proceedings in the Senflte," in reference to Mexican affairs. 
"Read Calhoun s remarks. I am beginning to think better of him; and 
perhaps my admiration increases from the fact that he acted in the Senate 
upon the question just as I did in the House, that is, he refused to vote 
upon the question as it was presented; and in his speech also he said just 
what I should have said, in substance, if I could have had a chance. The 
consequences of the last two days work here, I apprehend, will be far 
more important than the country is aware of. The dogs of war are now 
let loose, and I should not be surprised if a general war with England and 
France should ensue. The gates of Janus are open, and I fear they will 
be as the gates of hell. I hope for the best ; but I must confess the signs 
of the times are ominous. The whole catalogue of evils is justly charge 
able upon Mr. Polk. In reference to the situation of our army of occu 
pation, I do not concur with the prevailing sentiment here. I do not think 
that Taylor will be defeated. In rny opinion he will sustain his position ; 
and if he meets the enemy in a general engagement, he will give them 
a thorough flogging. But that will not end the war. Mexico will be 
invaded. 

This letter marks the beginning of his taking a just estimate 
of Mr. Calhoun. It will be soon seen how he had been misled 



204 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

in his judgment of that great man. He afterwards came to 
estimate him as he deserved. 

May 29th. After writing at some length about law business, 
and inquiring about his garden and other domestic matters, he 
continues : 

"I am getting tired of this place, and I am beginning to think that 
Congress is the last place that a man of honor and honorable ambition 
should aspire to. There is a recklessness of purpose here perfectly disgust 
ing and almost alarming. What will become of our country and institu 
tions I do not know. The signs of the times to me are ominous of evil. 
I have ceased to take much interest in what is done in the House. All is 
done by party will and for party effect." He concludes to go with Toombs 
on a short visit to New York, " for a little airing and to get rid of a fit of 
the blues." 

June llth. " The Oregon question, I think, is about to be settled. It 
is said that Mr. Pakenham has sent in to Mr. Polk her Majesty s ultima 
tum, which is a settlement of boundary on the basis of 49, with the 
whole of Vancouver s Island, to England ; the free navigation of the 
Strait of San Juan de Fuca, and the free navigation of the Columbia for 
ten years. It is also said that Mr. Polk will not make a treaty upon 
these terms without first taking the advice of the Senate. That is prudent, 
if not wise. Pity that he was not always as cautious and conscientious. 
If he had been, we might not now be at war with Mexico." 

The advance of the United States troops, before referred to, 
upon the disputed territory between the Nueces and the Rio 
Grande del Norte, without, as Mr. Stephens believed, any suffi 
cient reason to justify a movement which could not fail to 
involve the country in war, confirmed him in the view he 
had taken of the dispositions of the Administration ; and on 
the 16th of June he gave utterance to his thoughts in his 
well-known speech on the Mexican War. In this speech he 
boldly affirmed that " the whole affair, is properly chargeable to 
the imprudence, indiscretion, and mismanagement of our own 
Executive ; that the war has been literally provoked when there 
was no necessity for it, and it could have been easily avoided 
without any detriment to our rights, interest, or honor as a 
nation. Indeed, sir, I may be permitted to say, that a strange 
infatuation seems to have governed this Administration ever 
since it came into power in reference to our foreign affairs : a 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 205 

war with some country or other seems to have been its leading 
object." 

He then proceeds to prove his propositions : 1. That the war 
was entirely due to the advance of the troops ; the Mexicans, up 
to that time, having showed no hostile dispositions. 2. That 
nothing had occurred to render a movement of that kind to 
which but one interpretation could be given necessary ; and 
that not being necessitated by circumstances, it was eminently 
unwise, unless, indeed, the sole object of the Administration was 
to provoke hostilities. These propositions established, he pro 
ceeds to inquire what was the object of the war, with what 
views it was to be prosecuted, and if it was a war for conquest. 

* If so," he continues, "I protest against that part of it. I would shed 
no unnecessary blood, commit no unnecessary violence, allow no outrage 
upon the religion of Mexico, have no desecration of temples or revelling 
in the halls of the Montezumas, but be ready to meet the first offers of 
peace. I regret that General Taylor did not have the authority to accept 
the proffered armistice when it was tendered. In a word, I am for a 
restoration of peace as soon yes, at the earliest day it can be honorably 
effected. I am no enemy to the extension of our domain, or the enlarge 
ment of the boundaries of the Republic. Far from it. I trust the day is 
coming, and not far distant, when the whole continent will be ours ; when 
our institutions shall be diffused and cherished, and republican government 
felt and enjoyed throughout the length and breadth of the lan.\ from the 
far south to the extreme north, and from ocean to ocean. That this is our 
ultimate destiny, if wise counsels prevail, I confidently believe. But it is 
not to be accomplished by the sword. Mr. Chairman, republics never 
spread by arms. We can only properly enlarge by voluntary accessions, 
and should only attempt to act upon our neighbors by setting them a good 
example. In this way only is the spirit of our institutions to be diffused 
as the leaven until the whole lump is leavened. This has been the his 
tory of our silent but rapid progress, thus far. In this way Louisiana with 
its immense domain was acquired. In this way we got Oregon, con 
necting us with the Pacific. In this way Texas, up to the Rio Grande, 
might have been added; and in this way the Californias, and Mexico 
herself, in due time may be merged in one great republic. There is much 
said in this country of the party of progress. I profess to belong to that 
party, but am far from advocating that kind of progress which many of 
those who seem anxious to appropriate the term exclusively to themselves 
are using their utmost exertions to push forward. Theirs, in my opinion, 
is a downward progress. It is a progress of party, of excitement, of lust 
of power ; a spirit of war, aggression, violence, and licentiousness. It is 



206 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

a progress which, if indulged in, would soon sweep over all law, all order, 
and the Constitution itself. It is the progress of the French Revolution, 
when men s passions, 

1 Like an ocean bursting from its bounds, 
Long beat in vain, went forth resistlessly, 
Bearing the stamp and designation then 
Of popular fury, anarchy. 

"It is the progress of that political and moral sirocco that passed over 
the republics of olden time, withering and blasting everything within its 
pernicious and destructive range. Where liberty once was enjoyed, where 
the arts and sciences were cultivated and literature flourished, philosophers 
taught and poets sang, and where the most majestic monuments of re 
finement, taste, and genius were erected, ; towers, temples, palaces, and 
sepulchres, but where now 

Ruin itself stands still for lack of work, 
And desolation keeps unbroken sabbath. 

Or, to come nearer home for an illustration, it is the progress of Mexico 
herself. Why is that heaven-favored country now so weak and impotent 
and faithless ? Why so divided and distracted and torn to pieces in her 
internal policy? A few years ago she set out in the career of repub 
licanism under auspices quite as favorable to success as this country. 
Her progress has been most rapid from a w r ell-regulated good government, 
formed on our own model, to the most odious military despotism. We 
should do well to take a lesson from her history, and grow wise by the 
calamities of others, without paying ourselves the melancholy price of 
wisdom. They lacked that high order of moral and political integrity 
without Which no republic can standj And it is to progress in these 
essential attributes of national greatness I would look : the improvement 
of mind, the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men, the erec 
tion of schools, colleges, and temples of learning ; the progress of intellect 
over matter ; the triumph of the mind over the animal propensities ; the 
advancement of kind feeling and good will among the nations of the 
earth ; the cultivation of virtue and the pursuits of industry ; the bringing 
into subjection and subservience to the use of man of all the elements of 
nature around us ; in a word, the progress of civilization and everything 
that elevates, ennobles, and dignifies man. This, Mr. Chairman, is not to 
be done by wars, whether foreign or domestic. Fields of blood and car 
nage may make men brave and heroic, but seldom tend to make nations 
either good, virtuous, or great." 

The brilliant exploits of the United States forces, and the 
signal triumph with which they were crowned at last, dazzled 
the people, as had been expected, and withdrew attention from 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 207 

the real justice of the cause. The splendid gains of territory 
acquired by the cession of New Mexico and Upper California, 
under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, gave immense influence 
and popularity to Mr. Folk s Administration. Even before the 
victorious close this influence was strong, and this Congress had 
a clear Democratic majority of seventy members; while the 
Whigs, who had already lost ground during the Administration 
of Tyler, could not afford to risk their popularity further by 
showing opposition to a war which so liberally fed the public 
pride. 

June 2 1st. In this letter is a detailed account of a misunder 
standing between Mr. Stephens and Mr. W. L. Yancey, growing 
out of remarks made by both in the discussion of the Mexican 
War, which nearly resulted in a duel. The affair, however, was 
amicably adjusted through the mediation of Mr. Toombs and 
Mr. Burt. He freely and naturally expresses his gratification at 
the impression his speech had made upon the House. 

"But," he says, "my own opinion is that it is not half such a speech 
as my Texas speech. It was not a subject that admitted of so much men 
tal power, if you will excuse the idea, and is not so finished a production. 
It is not, indeed, as printed, half such a speech as was delivered. I lost 
the fire when I came to write it out, and as for the reporter s notes, they 
were worth little to me, except the order. He had not preserved my lan 
guage, nor the structure of sentences. I had not spoken to any one to 
report me, and just had the hasty sketch of Stansbury, who reports fre 
quently from memory." 

July 20th. The speech on the Mexican War excited much ap 
prehension and anxiety in the Whig party, who were afraid of 
the usual result of opposition to a successful war. In the letter 
of this date he says, " I am daily in receipt of letters from all 
parts of the country, and not a few from Georgia." He then 
incloses the following from Judge McLean : 

" CINCINNATI, 15th July, 1846. 

" MY DEAR SIR, I thank you for your excellent speech on the Mexican 
War. You have exhibited in the clearest light the rights of the country 
and the duty of the Executive under the Texas Annexation Resolutions. 
The war is the war of the Administration for party purposes, and not for 
the honor or interests of the country. A very small sum in comparison 
with what we have already expended would have extended our boundary 



208 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

to the Rio Grande peaceably and honorably. But, as you justly observe, 
the Administration seemed determined to have war either with England 
or Mexico, and I fear that the Administration is determined to go beyond 
the Rio Grande for a boundary. Will Congress encourage and sanction 
the spirit of conquest ? You may be assured that the charm of this Ad 
ministration is broken ; and if I am not greatly mistaken, Mr. Polk will 
leave the White House with as little glory as his predecessor. 

" Sincerely your friend, 

"JOHN MCLEAN." 

Congress adjourned early in August, and Mr. Stephens re 
turned to Crawford ville. His reputation was much heightened 
by his action during the session. The bold position which, un 
advised, and at first almost alone, he assumed upon the Mexican 
War made him the leader of the Opposition in the House; and 
his Resolutions, introduced in the following January, indicated 
the line of attack upon the Administration party, which finally 
led to its overthrow. 

Early in December Mr. Stephens returned to Washington, 
and the correspondence was kept up as usual, but the letters 
chiefly refer to matters of business. In that of the 26th is a 
repetition of directions frequently given in previous letters : 
" Don t forget or fail to let the young men Bristow and Jones 
have the money ; and if you cannot raise it elsewhere, I can send 
you some from here.^ v These were two young men whose ex 
penses he was paying at school and college ; for he had already 
begun that practice of aiding in the education of worthy young 
men without means, in which he was, perhaps, unequalled in 
beneficence, if we consider his own limited means and the other 
claims upon him. 

During this year, 1846, occurred the estrangement between 
Mr. Stephens and the Hon. Herschel Y. Johnson, which was 
especially to be regretted on account of their long and intimate 
previous friendship. While at college they were warmly at 
tached to each other, and remained so for many years. A cool 
ness sprang up between them in 1844, in which year Mr. Johnson 
was an Elector for Mr. Polk ; and he and Mr. Stephens met sev 
eral times in public discussion, and in the heat of debate some 
acrimony arose. In 1846 several articles appeared in the Fed 
eral Union, in which Mr. Stephens s speech on the Mexican 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 209 

War was severely criticised. Not knowing the author, Mr. 
Stephens applied to the publishers, and on learning that it was 
Mr. Johnson, demanded a retraction from that gentleman, and 
afterwards challenged him. Mr. Johnson refused to accept the 
challenge, and the affair went no further. But they ceased to 
speak to each other until the winter of 1855, at which time 
Mr. Johnson was Governor of the State, when an understanding 
and reconciliation was brought about by the mediation of com 
mon friends. Since that time they have lived upon terms of 
renewed friendship. In a letter written in 1869, Mr. Stephens 
speaks of Mr. Johnson as " one of our ablest and truest men." 



14 




CHAPTER XXI. 

Position of the Whigs Kesolutions on the Mexican "War Their Effect 
Danger ahead The Wilmot Proviso The " Missouri Compromise" 
repudiated Speech on the Mexican Appropriation Bill A Queer Genius 
Speech of Mr. Toombs Election of a Speaker Cure for Melancholy. 

THIS period, as before shown, marks an epoch in the political 
life of Mr. Stephens. We have seen how, by reason of his 
agreement with them on many general principles and in oppo 
sition to the course of the Administration, Mr. Stephens had 
come to be identified in the minds of many with the Whig 
party. But he reserved his independence of thought and action, 
and the freedom of choosing his own course whenever that of 
the party should appear to him unjust or unwise. 

The position of the Whigs at this time is well explained by 
a letter of Mr. Stephens written in 1869, from which we make 
an extract : 

" The Mexican War was in full blast, and seemed as if it would carry 
everything before it. The Whigs, as a party, while opposed to the policy 
of the war, were afraid to do or say anything that would bring upon them 
what they thought to be the odium of an anti-war party. The fate of those 
who had opposed the war of 1812 stood as a ghost in their path. Now 
this was the state of things in 1847, when I introduced my Resolutions 
upon the subject of the war. I consulted with all the leading Whigs in 
the House, Northern and Southern, upon introducing them. Every one 
of them dissuaded me from it. But I resolved upon doing it anyhow. I 
knew I was right." 

These Kesolutions were so adroitly yet so fairly drawn that 
it was embarrassing to attempt to dodge them. They ran as 
follows : 

" Whereas, It is no less desirable that the interests and honor of our 

country should be cordially sustained and defended so long as the present 

war with Mexico continues to exist, than that the conflict should not be 

unnecessarily prolonged, but should be terminated as soon as an honorable 

210 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 211 

peace can be obtained ; and whereas, it is believed that a diversity of 
opinion prevails to a considerable extent as to the ultimate aims and 
objects for which the war should be prosecuted, and it being proper that 
this mattej|^^|Pbe settled by the clear expression of the legislative will 
solemnly ^PHmined to the world : 

u Be it therefore Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the present war 
with Mexico is not waged with a view to conquest, or the dismemberment 
of that republic by the acquisition of any portion of her territory. 

u Be it farther Resolved by the authority aforesaid, That it is the desire 
of the United States that hostilities should be terminated upon terms 
honorable to both parties ; embracing a liberal settlement on our part of 
the questions growing out of the proper and rightful boundary of Texas, 
and a full recognition and proper provision on her part to be made for all 
the just claims of our citizens against that country ; the whole to be 
adjusted by negotiation, to be instituted and effected according to the 
constitutional forms of each Government respectively." 

The Democrats were so taken by surprise that many of them 
voted to suspend the rules and refer the Resolutions to the Com 
mittee of the Whole. Mr. Stephens continues in the letter 
above referred to : 

"After the Whigs saw the effect of the Resolutions on the Democratic 
side, several who had dodged the vote at first came up and recorded their 
names for it. So that the motion received every Whig vote in the House, 
and some Democratic. They saw that the Resolutions were stronger 
than their party. From this time out the Resolutions became the Whig 
platform on the war, North and South. Although several Democrats- 
voted to suspend the rules, the motion was lost by a vote of 76 to 88. 
And thus Congress refused to say that the war was not waged with a 
view to conquest, or the dismemberment of Mexico by the acquisition of 
any of her territory, or that it was * the desire of the United States that 
hostilities should be terminated upon terms honorable to both parties. 
This refusal to avow what were the objects of the war and to express the 
desire for an honorable peace, gave a blow to the Administration, from the 
effects of which it could never recover. Relying too far upon the majority 
and the continued successes of the army, Mr. Polk assumed an attitude 
which was defiant and almost menacing to the minority. Besides, the Whigs 
became more and more satisfied that the war was being conducted alto 
gether for the acquisition of territory and the power which such acquisition 
would secure. Already had Commodore Stockton announced to the people 
of California, and General Kearny to those of New Mexico, that their 
States were territories of the United States ; and as late as June of the 
preceding year Colonel J. B. Stevenson, of New York, had been authorized 



212 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

to raise a regiment, with the understanding that at the end of the war 
they should remain in Oregon, or in any other territory in that region 
of the globe which may then be a part of the United States. " 

In this prospective extension of territory, Mr. Stephens saw not 
only gross injustice toward a weak State, but a source of serious 
danger to the country. Already the anti-slavery party were de 
claring that, compromises or no compromises, slavery should not 
be introduced into any newly-acquired territory. Already on 
August 8th, 1846 on the President s asking an appropriation 
of three million dollars to enable him to negotiate a treaty 
with Mexico, based upon a cession of territory, Mr. Wilmot, of 
Pennsylvania, had introduced his notorious Proviso, excluding 
slavery from any such territory to be hereafter acquired, in 
direct and flagrant violation of the "Missouri Compromise"; 
and the Proviso passed the House and only failed in the Senate. 
Here was a plain indication how things would turn, and the 
way in which faith was to be kept. Again, in the following 
year, on the question of organizing a territorial government for 
Oregon, the Proviso was once more introduced, and its advo 
cates openly repudiated any intention to be bound by the line 
of 36 30 r , thus opening again the whole agitating question 
which had been considered finally settled by those who vainly 
imagined that solemn pledges would be regarded when the 
party that gave them saw their interest in breaking them. 

It was on the question of this Mexican Appropriation Bill 
that Mr. Stephens made his speech of February 12th, 1847, 
one of the most eloquent he ever delivered, fearless in its 
attacks upon the Administration and the dominant party, and 
as fearless in its warnings to the people of the country. In it 
he said : 

" The country, which one year ago was quiet and prosperous, at peace 
with the world, and smiling under the profusion of heaven s bountiful 
munificence, by the sole and unauthorized act of the President, has been 
plunged into an unnecessary and expensive war, the end and fearful con 
sequences of which no man can foresee. And to suppress inquiry and 
silence all opposition to conduct so monstrous, an Executive ukase has been 
sent forth, strongly intimating, if not clearly threatening, the charge of 
treason against all who may dare to call in question the wisdom or pro 
priety of his measures. Not only was Congress, which possesses exclu- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 11. STEPHENS. 213 

sively the war-making power, never consulted upon the subject until after 
hostilities were commenced, but the right is even now denied that body to 
make any legislative expression of the national will as to the aims and 
objects for which the war should be prosecuted. The new and strange 
doctrine is now put forth that Congress has nothing to do with the conduct 
of war ; that the President is entitled to its uncontrolled management ; 
that we can do nothing but vote men and money, to whatever amount and 
extent his folly and caprice may dictate. Neighboring States may be 
subjugated, extensive territories annexed, provincial governments erected, 
the rights of conscience violated, and the oath of allegiance, at the point 
of the bayonet, may be administered to a mixed population, embracing all 
varieties of races, languages, and color, and the Representatives of the 
people are to say nothing against these extraordinary outrages against the 
first principles of their Government, or else render themselves obnoxious to 
the imputation of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. This is nothing 
less than the assumption of the principle that patriotism consists in pliant 
subserviency to Executive will, that the President is supreme, and the 
king can do no wrong. 

" Sir, this doctrine might suit the despotisms of Europe, where the sub 
jects of a crown know no duty but to obey, and have no rights but to 
submit to royal dictation. But it is to be seen whether the free people of 
this country have so soon forgotten the principles of their ancestors as to 
be so easily awed by the arrogance of power. It is to be seen whether 
they have so far lost the spirit of their sires as tamely, quietly, and silently 
to permit themselves to be treated as the humble vassals of such a self- 
constituted lordling. 

"Insolence, when indulged, not unfrequently overdoes itself by its own 
extravagance. Like Ambition, it often overleaps its aims. And my confi 
dence in the character, integrity, and patriotism of the American people 
warrants me in venturing the assertion that this will be the fate of this 
most unscrupulous attempt to abridge the free exercise of those rights which 
are dear to freemen, and formidable to tyrants only. For a very little 
further interference with the freedom of discussion Charles X., of France, 
lost his crown ; and for a very little greater stretch of royal prerogative 
Charles I., of England, lost his head. By reflecting upon these examples 
of the past, our Executive, without entertaining any apprehension of ex 
periencing a fate exactly similar to either, may yet learn some profitable 
lessons, lessons that will teach him that there are some things more to be 
dreaded than the loss of a throne, or even the loss of a head, among 
which may be named the anathema of a nation s curse, and the infamy 
thajuisually follows it. 

^Moralists tell us that nations as well as individuals are sometimes 
punislied for their follies and crimesTj It may be that there is in store for 
us some terrible retribution for thefraud, deception, and gross iniquity 
practised upon the people of this country in the election of this man to 



214 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

office. But if, in the inscrutable ways of Providence, he who has been 
thus fraudulently elevated to power should be the ill-fated instrument of 
our chastisement, the punishment may be just, but he will take no honor 
in its execution. (jfL^h-e result of his mischievous councils should, in any 
way, prove disastrous to our institutions, the stability, harmony, and 
permanence of the Government, which there is now abundant cause 
seriously to apprehend, (he will certainly have no place in the grateful 
remembrance of mankind. Fame he will have; but it will be of the 
character of that which perpetuates the name of Erostratus. And the 
more deeply blackened than even his, as the stately structure of this temple 
of our liberties is grander and more majestic than the far-famed magnifi 
cence of the Ephesian dome. 

"The crisis, sir, requires not only firmness of principle, but boldness of 
speech. As the immortal Tully said, in the days of Catiline, when Rome 
was threatened with the most imminent danger, the time has come when 
the opinions of men should not be uttered by their voices only, but 
4 inscription sit in f route uniuscujusque quid de Repullica sentiatj it should 
even be written on the forehead of each one what he thinks of the Republic. 
There should be no concealment. In what I have to say, therefore, I shall 
use that character of speech which I think befitting the time and occasion. 

" The absorbing topic, both in this House and the country, is the war 
with Mexico. This is the subject which, above all others, demands our 
consideration. To this the bill upon your table relates.- And upon it I 
propose to submit some views as briefly as possible. I do not, at this time, 
intend to discuss the causes of the war, or to recount the blunders and 
folly of the President, connected with its origin. This I have done upon 
a former occasion ; and all the facts, I believe, are now well understood by 
the country. The President may repeat as often as he pleases that it was 
* unavoidably forced upon us. But such repetition can never change the 
fact. It is a war of his own making, and in violation of the Constitution 
of the country. And so history. I dou^)t not, will make up the record, if 
truth be fairly and faithfully registered in her chronicles. 

" But. sir, the war exists, and hoAvever improperly, unwisely, or wickedly 
it was begun, it must be brought to a termination, a speedy and successful 
termination. By the unskilfulness or faithlessness of our pilot, we have 
been run upon the breakers ; and the only practical inquiry now is, how 
we can be extricated in the shortest time and with the greatest safety. 
This is the grave question which now engages public attention, and which, 
as patriots and statesmen, we ought to decide. And, in my opinion, this 
great question, relating as it does to the interest, the honor, and permanent 
welfare of the country, necessarily involves another of no small import 
and importance, and that is, for what objects should the war be waged? 
Before the ways and means can be devised for bringing it to an honorable 
conclusion, there must be some agreement as to the ultimate ends and 
purposes for which it should be prosecuted. This should be first settled. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 215 

No system should be adopted until there is a distinct understanding upon 
this great and essential point. All wars, to be just, must have some dis 
tinct and legitimate objects to be accomplished, some rights to be de 
fended and secured, or some wrong to be redressed. And ome of the 
strangest and most singular circumstances attending this war is, that 
though it has lasted upwards of eight months, at a cost of many mil 
lions of dpllars, and the sacrifice of many valuable lives, both in battle 
and by the diseases of the camp, no man can tell us for what object it is 
prosecuted. And it is to be doubted whether any man, save the President 
and his Cabinet, knows the real and secret designs that provoked its ex 
istence. Upon the.se points up to this time, as was remarked the other day 
by a distinguished Senator in the other end of the Capitol [Mr. Calhoun], 
we are left only to inference. This, sir, is a strange spectacle, but it is 
nevertheless true. And I submit it to this House and this country 
whether it shall be permitted longer to exist. When this people are called 
on to spend their treasure and blood, should they not know the reason of 
the call, and the ends proposed to be attained?" 

The orator then proceeds to show the futility of the alleged 
ground of the war : old aggressions of Mexicans upon Amer 
ican commerce, afterwards settled by treaty, and the failure of 
Mexico, through inability, to pay the instalments due the United 
States under the treaty of 1843. He then presses home the ne 
cessity of an explicit showing by Congress of a sufficient ground 
for hostilities; a clear declaration of the objects aimed at, and a 
disavowal of the intention of permanent conquests. The speech 

thus concludes : 

M 

" And besides the reasons already offered, which of themselves would ever 
control me, there are others of great importance, growing out of the nature 
of the union of these States, which .should be gravely considered before 
bringing in this new element of strife. Who can sit here and listen to the 
debates daily upon this question and look unmoved upon the prospect be 
fore us ? This Wilmot Proviso, and the resolutions from the Legislatures of 
the States of New York, and Pennsylvania, and Ohio, all of the same char 
acter and import, speak a language that cannot be mistaken, a language 
of warning upon this subject, which the country, if wise, would do well 
jto heed in time. \ They show a fixed determination on the part of the 
North, which is now in the majority in this House, and ever will be here 
after, that, if territory is acquired, the institutions of the South shall be 
forever excluded from its linm^; this is to be the condition attached to the 
bill upon your table ! What is to be the result of this matter? Will the 
South submit to this restriction? Will the North ultimately yield ? Or 
shall these two great sections of the Union be arrayed against each other? 



216 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

When the elements of discord are fully aroused, who shall direct the storm? 
Who does not know how this country was shaken to its very centre by 
the Missouri agitation? Should another such scene occur, who shall be 
mighty enough to prevent the most disastrous consequences ? The master 
spirit of that day is no longer in your councils. Shall another equally 
great and patriotic ever be found ? Let not gentlemen quiet their appre 
hensions by staving off this question. It has to be met, and better now 
than at a future day. It had better be decided now, than after more blood 
and treasure have been spent in the pursuit of that which may ultimately 
be our ruin. Upon the subject of slavery, about which so much has been 
said in this debate, I shall say but little. I do not think it necessary to 
enter into a defence of the character of the people of iny section of the 
Union against the arguments of those who have been pleased to denounce 
that institution as wicked and sinful.v K is sufficient for me and for 
them that the morality of that institution stands upon a basis as firm 
as the Bible ; and by that code of morals we are content to abide until a 
better be furnished^ Until Christianity be overthrown, and some other 
system of ethics "be substituted, the relation of master and slave can never 
be regarded as an offence against the Divine laws. The character of our 
people speaks for itself. And a more generous, more liberal, more char 
itable, more benevolent, more philanthropic, and a more magnanimous 
people, I venture to say, are not to be found in any part of this or any 
other country. As to their piety, it is true they have none to boast of." 1 
But they are free from that pharisaical sin of self-righteousness which is 
so often displayed elsewhere, of forever thanking the Lord that they are 
not as bad as other men are. 

"As a political institution, I shall never argue the question of slavery 
here. I plead to the jurisdiction. MFke subject belongs exclusively to the 
StatesT> There the Constitution wisely left it; and there Congress, if it 
acts wisely, will let it remain. Whether the South will submit to the 
threatened proscription, it is not iny province to say. The language of 
defiance should always be the last alternative. But as I value this Union, 
and all the blessings which its security and permanency promise, not only 
to the present, but coming generations, I invoke gentlemen not to put this 
principle to the test. I have great confidence in the strength of the Union, 
so long as sectional feelings and prejudices are kept quiet and undisturbed. 
so long as good neighborhood and harmony are preserved among the 
States. But I have no disposition to test its strength by running against 
that rock upon which Mr. Jefferson predicted we should be finally wrecked. 
And the signs of the times, unless I greatly mistake them, are not of a 
character to be unheeded. With virtue, intelligence, and patriotism on 
the part of the people, and integrity, prudence, wisdom, and a due regard 
to all the great interests of the country on the part of our rulers, a bright 
and a glorious destiny awaits us. But if bad counsels prevail, if all the 
solemn admonitions of the present and the past are disregarded, if the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 217 

policy of the Administration is to be carried out, rif Mexico, the forbidden 
fruit, is to be seized at every hazard, I very much fear that those who 
control public affairs, in their eager pursuit after the unenviable distinc 
tion of despoiling a neighboring Republic, will have the still l"ess enviable 
glory of looking back upon the shattered and broken fragments of their 
own Confederacy." 

Wise words of warning, but all unavailing to stay the tide 
which was now setting steadily and irresistibly in the direction 
which he foresaw, and toward the catastrophe which he pre 
dicted. 

We now revert to the correspondence with Linton. 

"January 1st, 1847. Yesterday I wrote you a valedictory for 1846, and 
to-day it seems right enough that I should present you a salutatory for 
1847. For several years, I believe, the first time I have written the new 
date was in a letter to you. . . . Yesterday was chill, damp, foggy, and 
gloomy in the extreme : to-day it is clear, bright, and mild as a May day. 
But I have to be contented with a look from the window and the reflection 
of the sun which I cannot see. I am still confined to my room, though I 
believe I feel better than I have done for several days." 

January 3d. This is Sunday, and the sounds of the various 
church-bells lead him to speak of the day of prayer, and of the 
effects of sincere devotion. He then branches off to tell of a 
curious personage from Georgia who has given him much trouble 
by seeking his help in his efforts to procure patents for what he 
calls a " bee-rack," and some contrivance for sharpening gin- 
saws. Willing as Mr. Stephens always was to give his help to 
all who asked it, nothing could be effected in this case. The 
letter of the applicant is so absurd that he incloses it to Linton 
for his amusement. The main burden of this epistle is a com 
plaint of the treatment the writer has received at the hands of 
Mr. Edmund Burke, Commissioner of Patents (whom he seems 
to confound with the eloquent accuser of Warren Hastings), 
mingled with denunciations of Mr. Folk s Administration gen 
erally. At times his indignation lifts him into song, of which 
we subjoin a specimen : 

"If a display of eloquence and base nattering is the channel through 

which Justice can flow, 
I cannot expect the Honorable Edmund Burke any of his favors on me 

to bestow. 



218 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

May cursed be its influence, until all can be with the capacities of Demos 
thenes and Cicero born, 
And all the weak voices does, as it were, to Thunder turn !" 

On January 4th, having despatched one letter, he must needs 
write a second to repair an omission. " I have been thinking 
to-day, as I often have before, of Robin Short/ What has 
become of the poor old horse? and why do you make no men 
tion of him ?" 

January 5tli. After remarks upon some matters of law, this 
letter concludes : 

" To give you political news would be impossible. I can only tell you 
what we do ; but to say anything about what is ahead, or what is coming, 
would be out of my power. The truth is, nobody here, I believe, knows. 
The wholQ Government, I think, is about to break down, at least, the 
Administration. There is no concert in any party, and nobody knows 
what will pass the House. The Treasury is nearly empty, and soon will 
be quite so. The new Tariff is falling far short of the supposed or esti 
mated receipts. Walker [R. J. Walker, Secretary of the Treasury] says 
he cannot borrow money unless a duty be laid on tea and coffee ; and the 
House say they wijl not tax the stomachs of their constituents in order to 
flog the backs of Mexicans. In the mean time quite a storm is brewing 
about the slavery question. The North is going to stick the Wilmot 
amendment to every appropriation, and then all the South will vote against 
any measure thus clogged. Finally, a tremendous struggle will take place ; 
and perhaps Polk in starting one war may find half a dozen on his hands. 
I tell you the prospect ahead is dark, cloudy, thick, and gloomy. I hope 
for the best, while I fear the worst." 

On January 13th, after long and minute directions about 
home-matters, and another inquiry after old Robin, he gives 
an account of a speech made by his colleague and friend, Mr. 
Toombs. 

"It was decidedly one of the best speeches I ever heard Toombs make, 
and I have heard him make some fine displays. It was even superior to 
his Oregon speech. He had fully prepared himself, was calm and slow, 
much more systematic than usual, and in many points was truly eloquent. 
The House was full, and the galleries crowded, and all ears were open 
and all eyes upon him. He commanded their entire and close attention 
from the beginning to the end, and the effort has added full fifteen cubits 
to his stature as a statesman and a man of talents in the opinion of the 
House and the great men of the nation. I was better pleased with it 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 219 

than with any speech I have heard this session. ... He is destined to 
take a very high position here." 

The last letter of this year, until the meeting of Congress 
in December took him back to Washington, complains of the 
boredom which he has to submit to. To this infliction he was 
always a martyr. His patience and his sympathy were always 
so extreme, that they almost robbed him of the power to refuse 
or to dismiss visitors who came to see him out of mere curiosity 
or idleness. In his later years he found these intrusions less 
annoying, though not less frequent. His house, his table, and 
his conversation were always free to whoever chose to visit him; 
for the pain he would have felt in refusing any would have 
been greater than the annoyance of receiving all. 

So, when in Washington, much of his time was taken up in 
attending to various matters of business for his constituents, 
who never seemed to feel any hesitation in making demands 
upon his services. In the first letter after his return to that 
city, we find him recounting a variety of commissions he has 
been attending to at the National Intelligencer office, the Pension 
Office, the Land Bounty Office, and the Surgeon-Gen eraPs Office, 
a day s work which, he says, was more laborious than a week 
in the House. "I succeeded/ 7 he remarks, "in nothing I went 
for except at the Intelligencer office, where I had nothing to do 
but to pay some money for some one who has not paid me, and 
I doubt never will." 

The first session of the new (Thirtieth) Congress began on 
December 6th, and the first important business that came up was 
the election of a Speaker. 

"On this point," writes Mr. Stephens (in a letter of April, 1869), 
" Southern Whigs were as timid as fawns. They were afraid to take a 
New England man. In the Congress of 1845-47 we had but few Southern 
AVhigs. In the new Congress, Thomas Butler King was the most promi 
nent Southern Whig. He wished to have the Naval Committee ; but he 
feared to take any prominent part in the election of Speaker, so did not 
reach Washington until after the election was over, thus dodging the 
question. I looked upon this election as of vast importance, and went on 
early, getting Toombs to go with me. We were on the ground when the 
new Southern delegations came in. 

" Virginia had sent five new Whigs, never in Congress before, who 



220 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

naturally looked to Georgia, for a lead in deciding between the candidates 
presented by the North. Winthrop, of Massachusetts, and Yinton, of 
Ohio, were the contestants for the nomination. Vinton had nearly all the 
West, and several of the Middle States, and even some from New England. 
The nomination depended upon the course of the Southern "Whigs. I 
took ground boldly for Winthrop. It is true that he was cold and unpop 
ular in his bearing, and generally deemed aristocratic. But then he was 
a scholar and a gentleman. He had, moreover, given a toast in Boston, on 
the Fourth of July, 1845, which won for him my esteem and admiration. 
It was while great excitement still existed at the North about the admis 
sion of Texas, and Was, in substance : The United States, our country : 
however bounded, to be cherished in all our hearts and defended with all 
our arms. This exposed him to many attacks from opponents at home ; 
and I thought the sentiment deserved a grateful remembrance. Hence 
my bold stand for him. Toombs went with me, as did every Southern 
Whig present, which secured his nomination. He was, of course, elected, 
for the AVhigs had the House ; but I never said one word to him, either 
before or after the nomination, as to the cause which led to it." 

In the letter of December 14th, 1847, Mr. Stephens complains 
of a disappointment to which Mr. Winthrop, unintentionally, 
he supposes, had subjected him, in appointing him chairman of 
the Committee on Public Lands. " Inclosed with this I send 
you a list of the Committees which were reported yesterday. 
Concerning my own position I have naught to say." Yet he 
presently does say something concerning it. 

" I should rather have been on the tail end of the Committee on Foreign 
Affairs, or Territories, than where I am. I now despair of ever being 
seated on a committee or being in a position according to my liking. I 
never was, in the Legislature, and never have been, here. And if I was not 
well assured that Winthrop thought he was doing a great deal for me, or 
putting me just where I would be best pleased, I should never meet the 
Committee at all. But this shows how defective men often are in their 
judgments upon the feelings, views, and tastes of others. He thought 
because I made a speech upon the Public Lands last year, that my incli 
nations ran that way. At least this is what I am led to believe fronTwhat 
I have heard others say. How the fact is I do not know ; nor have I in 
timated to any one here feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment. . . . 
I have not determined whether I shall serve on the Committee or not. I 
am half inclined not to serve ; and yet it might be considered evidence of 
a bad spirit to refuse." 

Why he wished a position on the Committee on Territories 
can be easily understood by recurring to the political history of 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 221 

this time. We have noted on an earlier page the attitude of the 
Restrict ionists in regard to the organization of a Territorial 
government in Oregon, who refused to be bound by the line of 
36 30 , previously agreed to, and the bill passed the House 
with the Wilmot Proviso incorporated in it. In the Senate, 
Mr. Calhoun introduced a series of resolutions, setting forth the 
views of the Strict Constructionists in regard to the status of 
the Territories, and the rights of their citizens ; but these were 
not brought to a vote, and the bill failed to pass the Senate, so 
remained as a battle-ground of parties for the next Congress. 

In regard to this matter he writes in a letter of April 18th, 
1869: 

" I did think from my position on the war, from my Resolutions on it, 
which brought the party into power, that my proper place in committee 
was the chairmanship of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. But I did 
not say a word to any one on the subject, though when placed by Mr. 
Winthrop on the Committee on Public Lands, I felt deeply mortified and 
chagrined/ 

For December 18th we find a long letter of twelve pages, 
giving an account of his being cured of melancholy by read 
ing Burton s Anatomy of that affection. The day is damp and 
chilly, and after premising that such weather is apt to bring on 
low spirits, he specifies his own case, and relates how Burton 
has cured him. Then surmising that Linton may possibly be 
similarly affected, he advises him to try Burton ; and not satis 
fied with giving the prescription, forwards a handsome dose in 
the shape of a liberal extract. He looks upon a course of treat 
ment by Burton as " homoeopathic practice," though the remedy 
has not been taken, iu his case, in homoeopathic doses. "But 
the analogy between Burton and modern homoeopathists holds 
in this, that he and they cure by seeming to feed the disease. 
He, for instance, furnishes the widest field for this ill-starred 
passion to rove in, ministers to its tastes, and even calls in the 
imagination to create new objects for its indulgence, until satis 
fied and sated, the soul, like the prodigal son, at last comes to 
itself, wakes up from its dream, and laughs at its own folly." 
Then follows the extract, giving a list of real and imaginary 



222 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

evils provocative of melancholy. He continues, " And now (the 
real Ego is again speaking), if you can get through that para 
graph without laughing, you are more of a [illegible] than I am." 
December 22d. Linton having expressed concern about his 
brother s treatment in the matter of the Committees, he reverts 
to the subject. 

"I think injustice has been done me; but, by a law of my nature, I 
think it will be of advantage to me. I am very much like some chronom 
eters, I need a weight or something hearing down upon me, to keep me nf~7 
motion. I have felt it all my life. Without it, I am disposed to be inert j 
and idle ; but the greater the weight, the greater the reaction. I therefore J 
report the real state of ray feelings to be gratification." 

December 25th. A long letter on Christmas, in a vein befitting 
the season. He has congratulations for all who greet its return, 
except old maids and old bachelors, who, he thinks, but poorly 
enjoy its blessed influences. 

"It is true," he continues, "we have no great display here : no guns, 
no crackers, no great exhibition of spirits of any kind, though our land 
lady sent round some nogg a while ago, no music, no plays, no visiting, 
and not even sunshine, for it has been snowing the livelong day, and we 
are all housed. But nevertheless it is Christmas, that same good old day 
which awakens in me many reminiscences much more pleasant than even 
the Fourth of July. For this is the anniversary of my own individual days 
of liberty." 

On the 29th a long quotation from Burton leads him into a 
dissertation on poverty. After reciting its evils, he says : 

" Yet mankind is not so bad after all as we sometimes are disposed to 
conclude. It is only the lowly inclined, the mean in spirit, the bad by 
nature, who suffer themselves to be the tools and hacks of the rich. Wealth 
is good in its proper place, when possessed by those of the right spirit. 
But it is by no means essential for the truly noble to enter successfully 
all the honorable contests with which life abounds. 

December 31st. " The business of another day is well-nigh closed, and 
with it the business of another year. The hour of midnight is near at 
hand, and all without is as still and quiet as if no great event were ex 
pected. The footman is no longer in the streets, the busy hackman and 
his weary team are alike enjoying nature s sweet repose. No sound of 
music, dance, or song is heard. In the mansions of the rich, as well as 
in the hovels of the poor, the inmates are asleep, while I am keeping the 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 1L STEPHENS. 223 

vigils of the night, and watching with anxious care the last glimmerings 
of the year as they fitfully flicker in the socket of time. A few moments 
more, and it will be gone forever. To me it has been, in many particu 
lars, a good friend ; and I feel it a sort of duty to sit by it in its last mo 
ments. ... I believe that I have never passed the same period of time 
in my life with as few incidents to affect me in body or mind. It is there 
fore with reluctance I witness the separation." 

Throughout this whole correspondence there are continual 
references to home matters, inquiries about humble neighbors, 
the servants, individually, and even the domestic animals, name 
by name, which for brevity s sake we omit. This affectionate 
interest in all who had even the slightest claim upon his regard 
is highly characteristic of the man. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Presidential Nominations Opinion of Mr. Calhoun Mr. Clay Anecdotes 
A Conversation and a Prophecy Death of Mr. Adams Nomination of 
General Taylor The " Allison" Letters Slavery in the Territories The 
Clayton Compromise Speech of August 7th Keturns to Georgia Diffi 
culty with Judge Cone Mr. Stephens s Life attempted Public Indig 
nation. 

THE most important political events of the new year (1848) 
were the nominations for the Presidency. The Whigs still 
looked upon Mr. Clay as their great leader, and his reception 
in Washington, in January, was most enthusiastic. But the 
mass of the party had begun to share the opinion of the more 
far-sighted among them, that Mr. Clay, notwithstanding his 
talents, distinguished public services, and great popularity, was 
not an available candidate. There was an impression that he 
was " unlucky" ; and besides, the recent war had given the 
public a sort of military fever, of which it was thought a stroke 
of policy to take advantage by running a military candidate 
identified with the late victories. Mr. Stephens, as early as 
1846, had advised the nomination by the Whigs of Georgia of 
General Zachary Taylor, which had accordingly been done in 
their State Convention of that year. His opinions, as the can 
vass for the nomination progressed, will be seen in the subse 
quent correspondence. 

On January 10th he gives another intimation of his growing 
admiration for Mr. Calhoun, whose character and talents he had 
always respected, but whose statesmanship he had heretofore 
looked at too much from a Whig point of view to do justice to. 

"I send you the Intelligencer with Mr. Calhoun s speech. Read it. It 
is a great one. But for the few concluding paragraphs it would be, in 
my opinion, one of the greatest yet made on this Mexican war. . . . Mr. 
Clay has just reached the city: a great crowd greeted him at the depot 
andonade the welkin ring with their shouts." 
224 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 225 

The next day he writes : 

" The only news is that Mr. Clay has produced a great impression here. 
I have not seen him yet, but am told by those who have that he looks re 
markably well ; better than he did ten years ago. I expect he will give 
the Whigs some trouble. This is my opinion entre nous. I think he will 
be flattered into the belief that he can be elected ; and I assure you that 
from what I have seen since I have been here, I consider the effort to elect 
him would be useless. The opinion is too general that he cannot be suc 
cessful: there is no confidence in his luck. He is certainly a most remark 
able man. He has more of the warmest and most devoted friends than 
any other human being, and more of the most sleepless and bitter enemies. 
By the by, I must tell you what I have heard from divers sources, that on 
his first interview, when he got to his quarters yesterday with his friends, 
among others, Botts, of Virginia, upon being asked by Botts what course 
the Whigs should take in relation to the Mexican war, he said, Pass the 
Resolutions of Stephens of Georgia. This I considered complimentary. 
. . .QWe have a great many politicians in this country, but few statesmen. 
No more to-night. Houston, of Alabama, is haranguing the House about 
something of no importance in relation to the employment of a clerk. 
Pollock, of Pennsylvania, is replying ; and so we spend our time from day 
to day." 

He mentions several speeches that have been made in the 
House, among the rest, one by Gary, of Maine. 

" He caused a great deal of merriment at his own expense ; but the hon 
orable member did not care for ridicule. He persisted and finished his 
speech. Many a man would have been overwhelmed with mortification, 
but Gary triumphed, for he put down all laughter, and almost made the 
laughers feel mean. I could but exclaim, like Judge Story, Well, now, he 
was a good fellow !" 

Again, referring to a conversation with Mr. Clay : 

" There was one expression of his countenance which I shall never for 
get. The conversation was going on about the conquest of Mexico. I put 
the hypothetical case of Scott s refusing obedience to the late orders of 
Polk suspending him from command, and said, Suppose Scott should 
resign his commission as our commanding general, declare himself Em 
peror of Mexico, and appeal to the soldiery to sustain him, and indulged 
in some other pleasantry of that kind, when Toombs put in, That, Mr. 
Clay, would be only anticipating our destiny about forty years. lie had 
before been talking of a letter from General Worth, in which he advocates 
the conquest and subjugation of the whole country, stating that this ulti 
mately will be the result, and that by doing so now we should be but 
anticipating by about forty years, at least this was the construction put 

15 



226 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

upon Worth s letter in the conversation. Clay had been silent during this 
jocular talk, but when Toombs asked him the question, he looked calm, 
held his hands folded across his breast, cast his eyes upward as if in the 
deepest and sincerest emotion, and said, / fear so! 1 The expression I 
shall never forget." 

The letter thus concludes : 

"One word more, which I do not wish you to repeat from me, and that 
is, that I am now well satisfied that Mr. Clay will not allow his name to 
be used in the National Convention. General Taylor will be nominated, 
unless I am greatly mistaken." 

At that time Mr. Clay expressed confidentially to his friends 
his determination not to allow the use of his name in the Con 
vention, as we learn from a letter of Mr. Stephens of later date. 

On February 21st he alludes to an event which produced a 
great impression at the time. 

a The House has just adjourned in great confusion. Mr. Adams has had 
an attack of apoplexy in his chair. He is now in the Speaker s room. It 
is said that he cannot survive long. . . . The Senate is in secret session 
on the project for a treaty with Mexico. It is said that Twist has unoffi 
cially made a treaty for New Mexico and California, and we are to pay 
fifteen million dollars, and keep twelve thousand troops for eighteen months 
to defend the court that made it. So much for rumor. I don t know 
whether Polk advises it or not." 

February 22d. "The House has just met, and immediately adjourned. 
Mr. Adams is still in the Speaker s room, and is said to be sinking fast. It 
is thought that he will not last longer than a few hours. I send you to-day 
the Intelligencer, giving an account of his attack yesterday. The words he 
uttered after reviving a little were very expressive : l This is the end of 
earth ! as some say ; or as Mr. Abbott, who heard him, told me, This is 
all of earth ! I am composed. He was asked if he wished anything, and 
answered My wife. He was insensible, however, when she reached 
him. He looked uncommonly well yesterday morning, and walked from 
his home to the House." 

Early in March of this year Mr. Stephens removed his quar 
ters to a building known as the Rush House, which had been 
rented by Mr. Toombs. The " mess" consisted of Mr. and Mrs. 
Toombs, their two daughters, Mr. and Mrs. Crittenden, and Mr. 
Stephens, a very pleasant and congenial society. 

Soon after his removal, he gives his brother his intentions and 
views in regard to the approaching Presidential election. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 227 

" I am for Taylor out and out, because I think he can be elected, and I 
do not think Mr. Clay can be. From all I can learn he would not get as 
many States at the next election as he did at the last ; and the great issues 
now before the country are of too great importance to hazard them by 
running him again. . . . The truth is, Mr. Clay some time ago did come 
to a determination to withdraw, and declared to several of his confidential 
friends that he would decline in a public way when he got home ; and 
under that impression the Whigs of Kentucky forbore to nominate Taylor, 
which they would have done but for that assurance. But he has since 
changed his mind, and now intends to get the nomination if he can. 
Taylor will be the strongest man in the Convention. I have the count. 
It is true, I cannot count a majority of the whole Convention for him, but 
he is decidedly stronger than Clay, McLean, and Scott, who will all have 
friends in the Convention. When I wrote you some time ago that Mr. 
Clay would be out of the way, I relied on his assurance to that effect ; and 
I never became satisfied that he would disregard that assurance until last 
Saturday. Now I am for Taylor anyliow. Mr. Clay has been deceived by 
insincere men at the North, who only want to kill off Taylor with him." 

There are no more of these letters for the rest of this spring 
and the following summer, as Linton came on to Washington 
at the end of March and spent several months with his brother. 
They travelled in the North, and visited their uncle, James 
Stephens (then quite feeble from the infirmities of age), in Penn 
sylvania. They never saw him again. They also attended the 
Whig Convention at Philadelphia; but we have no detailed 
account of these movements. Mr. Stephens was not a delegate 
to the Philadelphia Convention, but he materially aided in the 
nomination of General Taylor and in his election. In fact, the 
policy by which this election was secured, and the Whigs again 
came into power, was to a very considerable extent shaped by 
him. Those who remember well the campaign of this year 
will not have forgotten the two " Allison" letters, especially the 
second, which became so celebrated in the canvass. The history 
of these letters is as follows: 

Mr. Stephens was extremely urgent that General Taylor 
should, as early as possible, publicly announce his position in 
regard to the great questions of the day, and that this position 
should be the right one. At his instance a letter was drawn up 
at the Rush House, written, indeed, by Mr. Crittenden, but the 
main ideas suggested by Messrs. Stephens and Toombs, and 



228 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

framed entirely in accordance with their views. Knowing the 
importance of prompt action, Mr. Stephens urged that it should 
be carried at once by Major Bliss, of the general s staff, to Gen 
eral Taylor at Baton Rouge. This advice was followed, and 
Bliss started the next morning. The letter purported to be 
addressed to the public ; but on the arrival of Bliss it was found 
that General Taylor had already written a letter to Captain 
Allison, explaining his position, which had been published. 
So the letter prepared at the Rush House was also addressed to 
Allison, and so framed as to give it the character of a supple 
ment or postscript prepared after more mature reflection. This 
letter was the Whig platform. It was a master-piece of its 
kind; and in addition to the greater personal popularity of 
Taylor over his rival, gave the Whigs a decided advantage when 
the letters of the candidates were compared. 

The Slavery question had now come to be a subject of perma 
nent agitation in Congress, and it was plain that no definite set 
tlement was to be arrived at, from the fact shown in the case 
of the Missouri Compromise that the agitators and their 
upholders did not intend to be bound by any agreement; how 
ever favorable, nor any compact, however solemn. The ques 
tion this year came up in the guise of legislation for the Terri 
tories of New Mexico and California, obtained from Mexico 
by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, in which the South con 
sidered herself entitled to a share, as having equally contributed 
to their acquisition, both in furnishing soldiers for the fighting 
and treasure for the purchase, while the North was bent on 
excluding her from such participation. Mr. Douglas appealed 
to the Senate to maintain the Missouri Compromise line, as an 
equitable basis of division of the public domain, but this was 
rejected in both Houses. A bill was offered called the " Clay 
ton Compromise," which wore an aspect of fairness and reason 
ableness, and yet the acceptance of which would have been a 
relinquishment by the South of all her rights. The main 
features of this bill w,ere covered by the following words : 

"And be it further enacted, That the legislative power of said Territory 
shall, until Congress shall otherwise provide, be vested in the Governor, 
Secretary, and Judges of the Supreme Court, who, or a majority of them, 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 229 

shall have power to pass any law for the administration of justice in said 
Territory, which shall not be repugnant to this act, or inconsistent with 
the laws and Constitution of the United States. But no law shall be 
passed interfering with the primary disposal of the soil, respecting an 
establishment of religion, or respecting the prohibition or establishment 
of African slavery : and no tax shall be imposed upon the property of the 
United States, nor shall the lands or other property of non-residents be 
taxed higher than the lands or other property of residents. All the laws 
shall be submitted to the Congress of the United States, and if disapproved, 
shall be null and void." 

Ill another section, wherein provision had been made for the 
organization of Territorial courts, occurs the following clause : 

" Writs of error and appeals from the final decisions of said Supreme 
Court shall be allowed, and may be taken to the Supreme Court of the 
United States, in the same manner and under the same regulations as 
from the circuit courts of the United States ; except only that in all cases 
involving title to slaves, the said writs of error or appeals shall be allowed 
and decided by the said Supreme Court, without regard to the value of 
the matter, property, or title in controversy ; and except, also, that a writ 
of error or appeals shall be allowed to the Supreme Court of the United 
States from the decision of the Supreme Court created by this act, or any 
judges thereof, or of the district courts created by this act, or of any 
judges thereof, upon any writ of habeas corpus involving the question of 
personal freedom," etc. 

This bill Mr. Stephens strongly opposed, and gave his reasons 
for opposing it in his speech of August 7th. In this speech he 
shows: 1. That according to the law and usage of civilized 
nations, all laws in force in a conquered country at the time of 
its conquest, unless they be contrary to the terms of the treaty 
of peace, or to the fundamental policy and organic law of the 
conquering power, remain in full force until altered by the con 
queror. 2. That Mexico, as far back as 1829, had abolished 
slavery throughout the whole Republic, and confirmed the act by 
subsequent legislation. 3. That the Constitution of the United 
States, while it recognized slavery in those States in which it 
already existed, did not recognize it in those States which had 
abolished it ; and consequently there was nothing in its abolition 
or non-existence in Mexico contrary to the Constitution of the 
United States, and therefore ipso facto annulled by the conquest 
in these Territories. 4. That by the bill the Territorial govern- 



230 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ments were forbiddden to legislate in any way on the subject of 
African slavery, and it was provided that any questions on that 
matter which might arise should be referred to the Supreme 
Court of the United States. 5. That the Supreme Court, 
under the circumstances, could not decide that slavery was law 
ful in these Territories unless it were formally established there 
by legal authority. 6. That, therefore, a bill which placed it 
at the option of Congress to determine whether a Southerner 
should or should not be allowed to immigrate into the newly- 
acquired Territories with his negroes was neither more nor less 
than a plain invasion of the rights of the South. 
After proving these points, he continues thus : 

"Then, sir, what are we of the South to gain by this Compromise? 
Nothing but what we would have, even with the Wilmot Proviso, the 
poor privilege of carrying our slaves into a country where the first thing 
to be encountered is the certain prospect of an expensive lawsuit which 
may cost more than any slave is worth ; and, in my opinion, with the 
absolute certainty of ultimate defeat in the end, and with no law in the 
mean time to protect our rights and. property in any way whatever! 
This, sir, is the substance of the Compromise, even in the most favorable 
view in which it can be presented. And this is the security for the South 
which I had the temerity to reject! Would that the people of that section 
may ever have men upon this floor of such temerity ! I did reject it, and 
I shall continue to reject all such favors. If I can get no better com 
promise, I shall certainly never take any at all. As long as I have a seat 
here, I shall maintain the just and equal rights of my section upon this as 
well as upon all other questions. I ask nothing more, and I shall t ake 
nothing less. All I demand is common right and common justice ; these 
I will have in clear and express terms, or I will have nothing. I speak to 
the North, irrespective of parties. I recognize no party association in 
affiliation upon this subject. If the two parties at the North combine and 
make a sectional issue, and by their numerical strength vote down the 
South, and deny us those equal rights to which I think we are in justice 
entitled, it will be for the people of the South then to adopt such a course 
aj3__they may deem proper. I do not stand here to make any threats in 
their name, nor have I authority to commit even my own constituents to 
any course of policy. They must do that for themselves. My commission 
here extends only to the maintenance of their rights upon all questions 
and measures that may come before me in this House. And this I shall 
do at all hazards." 

After stating the two possible plans of compromise, one by 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 231 

dividing the territory by well-defined lines, and the other by 
rejecting the territory altogether, he concludes : 

" The late treaty is not the supreme law of the land yet, and will not be 
till the laws necessary to give it effect are passed. Mr. Polk has not yet 
asked us to appropriate the money, and when he does, it will be our con 
stitutional right and duty to deliberate on the expediency of making the 
appropriation. And I now state that, if I am here when that appropria 
tion is made, I shall exercise this constitutional right, and I shall never 
vote one dollar from the common treasure of this Union to pay for these 
Territories, if the jnstitiitions. of my section are L. to _be_ wholly excluded 
from them. Nor will I vote one dollar to carry this treaty into effect 
until I have this matter settled, and what I consider the great rights of 
the South secured. And I believe this is the great lever of the South 
upon this question. Let the bill organizing Territorial governments be 
linked with the appropriation of the money, and let the South present an 
unbroken front against paying a dollar, if their institutions are to be 
excluded, and I shall have some hopes yet of obtaining justice. 

"Now, sir, you know something of the only plans upon which I intend 
to compromise this business. But, as I said before, if in all this I should 
be defeated, if the South will not stand with me upon this point, if the 
combined vote of the North carry the Wilmot Proviso, then, sir, it will 
be for the people of the South to take their own course, such as they may 
deem their interest and honor demand. It is not for me to indicate that 
course. But one thing I will say, that I shall be with them in whatever 
course they may take. Their interests are my interests ; their fortunes 
are my fortunes ; their hopes are my hopes ; and whatever destiny awaits 
them awaits me also. 

" As I have buffa few moments left, I will recapitulate my positions, 
that no man may mistake or misunderstand them. 

" The first is, that, by the bill, the whole-subject of slavery in California 
and New Mexico, without any legislation on the part of Congress or the 
Territorial governments, one way or the other, is referred to the Judiciary 
to determine, whether it can legally exist there or not. 

" 2d. That the Constitution of the United States fully recognizes, and 
amply protects, the institution of slavery where it exists by the laws of 
the State or place ; but it does not establish it anywhere, where by the 
laws of the place it is prohibited. 

" 3d. That California and New Mexico, being Territories acquired by 
conquest, all the laws which were in force there at the time of the con 
quest not inconsistent with the Constitution of. the United States, or the 
stipulation of the treaty of peace, or which were purely of a political 
character, are, according to well-settled principles, and the adjudications 
of our own courts, still in force. 

U 4th. That as slavery did not exist there at the time of the conquest, 



232 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

but had been prohibited by express law, the Supreme Court of the United 
States, to whom the matter was to be referred in the last resort, could 
not be expected, from the principles of numerous decisions already made, 
to decide otherwise than that slavery cannot be protected there until the 
existing law abolishing it be altered by competent authority. 

* ; 5th, and lastly. That these positions being uncontrovertible, the bill 
offered, as it was, as a compromise and a final settlement of the question, 
amounted to nothing but a total abandonment and surrender of the rights 
of extending the institutions of the South to those Territories." 

The main object of this speech was to defeat the acquisition 
of this territory by Congress. He conceived that the measure 
tied up the hands of the people. He was utterly opposed to 
the treaty that bought this country ; and he and his colleague 
Toombs were, we believe, the only two that voted against the 
appropriation of money to carry it into effect. 

This bill, like all the other measures introduced with a view 
to settling the question of slavery in the Territories, was rejected, 
and Congress adjourned on the 14th of August. Mr. Stephens 
returned to Georgia, in time to render most efficient service in 
the campaign, into which he entered with zeal, giving all the 
time that could be spared from his professional duties. 

Early in this campaign, however, an event occurred which dis 
abled him for a while for exertions, and indeed narrowly missed 
putting an end to his life. Mr. Stephens had heard that Judge 
Cone, a leading politician, had spoken in very acrimonious terms 
of his action, and had even gone so far, it was said^as to denounce 
him as a traitor to his country. This was reported to Mr. 
Stephens, who said that he did not believe that the judge had 
so spoken ; but that as soon as he should meet him he would 
ask him about the matter, and if he avowed it, would "slap his 
face." Their first meeting occurred at a Whig gathering. After 
the speaking was over, the company sat down to a dinner in 
the grove, an 1 during its progress Mr. Stephens took occasion 
to ask Judge Cone about the report, which the latter pronounced 
false. Mr. Stephens expressed his gratification, saying that he 
had never himself believed the report. He added, " I do not 
mean to say anything offensive to you, Judge Cone; but I 
think it right to say, as it will certainly be repeated to you by 
others, that I said (after expressing my disbelief in the report) 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 233 

that if you avowed the expression attributed to you, I would 
slap your face." The judge repeated his disavowal, and the 
matter seemed to have ended peaceably. But the affair was 
talked of all over the State, and the judge grew persuaded that 
it was the general opinion that he had shown cowardice. Heated 
by this, he wrote Mr. Stephens a letter, demanding a retraction 
of his threat, to which Mr. Stephens replied in the same way, 
saying that as the threat had been only contingent upon the 
avowal of the report, and as the judge had pronounced the re 
port false, there was no occasion for any offence or angry feeling. 
Before the receipt of this reply of Mr. Stephens, Judge Cone 
and the latter accidentally met on the piazza of the Atlanta 
Hotel in that city. The judge, in an angry manner, again 
demanded a retraction. Mr. Stephens replied that the judge had 
made that demand of him in a letter, to which he had already 
replied in writing, and that he would give him no further answer. 
Upon this the judge called him a traitor, and Mr. Stephens 
instantly struck him across the face with a small cane in his 
hand. Livid with fury, the judge drew a dirk-knife, and 
attempted to stab him to the heart. In his left hand he had a 
closed umbrella, which Mr. Stephens caught, and interposed as 
a defence, the judge making furious thrusts with his knife, and 
wounding Mr. Stephens eighteen times on the body and arms. 
At length the judge, who was a large, muscular man, rushed 
upon him violently, the umbrella broke, and Mr. Stephens fell 
upon his back, his adversary throwing himself upon him. 
Forcing Mr. Stephens s head back to the floor with his left 
hand, he held the knife above his exposed throat, crying, " Re 
tract, or I will cut your throat !" " Never ! Cut !" Mr. 

Stephens shouted. As the blade was descending Mr. Stephens 
caught it in his right hand, which was terribly mangled as his 
antagonist tried to wrench it away. Both men had risen to their 
feet again, still struggling, when friends rushed in and separated 
them, and Mr. Stephens was carried into the hotel, and his 
wounds immediately dressed. One of the stabs had penetrated 
to within less than a sixteenth of an inch from the heart ; an 
intercostal artery had been cut, from which in a few minutes 
more he would have bled to death; and his right hand was 



234 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

cut almost to pieces. It was thought at first that he could not 
possibly survive. 

The news of this rencontre quickly spread, and caused the 
greatest excitement throughout the State, but especially in Mr. 
Stephens s own county. Hundreds thronged into Crawfordville 
to meet the night-train from Atlanta and learn his condition, for 
the report had run that he could not survive his injuries. Mr. 
Johnston was present, and will never ft rget the intense anxiety 
and the deep and terrible feeling of resentment that fillecj all 
breasts. Men spoke to each other in low tones, all were 
waiting to hear what the train would bring ; they would control 
themselves, and do nothing until they knew the truth. When 
the train was heard approaching, their excitement was scarcely 
to be repressed. As it glided in, a passenger shouted that his 
life was in no danger, and such a shout arose from the multi 
tude as was never heard in that village before. 

This painful affair was deeply regretted by all, but by none 
more than Judge Cone, who had always been an amiable man, and 
had never before been involved in any personal encounter. The 
taunts of his political opponents, and brooding over an imagined 
wrong, had for a time overthrown his judgment, and driven 
him to an act which he afterwards bitterly regretted. Mr. 
Stephens was very averse to the prosecution of Judge Cone for 
this assault, and refused to appear as prosecutor. The judge, 
however, was indicted, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of 
stabbing, and was released on payment of a fine of one thousand 
dollars. The amicable relations between the judge and Mr. 
Stephens were restored after some years, and were never again 
interrupted. 

As soon as Mr. Stephens had sufficiently recovered, he re 
sumed his work in the canvass. His right hand had been so 
much disabled as to prevent his using it in writing, and we 
have but two more letters of his this year, both written with 
the left hand. 

After the election of Genera] Taylor to the Presidency, and 
the assembling of Congress, in December, there was much ex 
citement produced by certain violent resolutions offered in that 
body by leading Northern Whigs. A meeting of Southern Sen- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 235 

ators and members was held, of which Ex-Governor Metcalf, 
Whig Senator from Kentucky, was president. A committee of 
fifteen one from each slaveholding State was appointed to 
report upon the state of the country; of which committee Mr. 
Stephens was chairman. This meeting, or convention, had several 
sessions, and adopted a report (drawn up by Mr. Stephens) to 
the effect that there was no cause for immediate action, further 
than an expressed determination of a united South, to maintain 
their constitutional rights if assailed. 

Mr. Calhoun submitted a minority report, which was not 
adopted; but was afterwards published and extensively circu 
lated. 

In the correspondence, we find Mr. Stephens bidding farewell 
to the old year, as usual, in a letter, from which we make the 
following extract : 

" . . . Let us indulge in no forebodings of the future, but rest in hope 
that all, under the guidance of a kind Providence, will eventuate well; 
and that, whatever the next twelve months shall bring forth, will be the 
best for the promotion of the general advancement and happiness of this 
poor, degenerate, and sorely-afflicted world. Who will live to see the 
close of 1849 is at present beyond human conjecture. Who are to be the 
victims of violence, or slow disease, or scorching fevers, or racking pains, 
or raging pestilences, no one now can tell. But every one has his time, 
known only to the Ruler of the Universe ; and all should act upon the 
principle of being always ready. To do the most good we can in relieving 
misery, supplying want, allaying strife, establishing peace, promoting hap 
piness, advancing morals, and extending intelligence and virtue, and so to 
act in all things as to be ready at any time to close our career on earth, 
these are the great objects of life. The close of every year fills me with 
sadness. Perhaps this is the last I shall ever see. In view of such a 
contingency, keep this letter, and it will always present to your mind a 
picture of my thoughts and feelings on this thirty-first of December, 
1848. (jtwerrty years from this time it will be a fruitful theme of medi 
tation for you."^ -~> , 

-f ^ 5 ^ 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

The Abolitionists in 1848 Rise of the Free-Soil Party State of Feeling 
at Washington Attitude of Southern Whigs The Vote for Speaker 
Duty of the South A Bad State of Things Signs of a Coming Catas 
trophe. 

OF course the questions which Congress, as we have seen, left 
unsettled in 1848, were sure to come back with increased ur 
gency in the next year. In the mean time important political 
events had happened. President Taylor had been elected by a 
majority of thirty-six electoral votes, which was a triumph for 
the Southern Whigs. But a new element had appeared in the 
campaign. At the previous Presidential election, the Abolition 
ists had for the first time introduced a candidate who received a 
popular vote of less than sixty-five thousand. But there were 
many who, while not desiring the abolition of African slavery 
at the South, which would have resulted in the impoverishment 
of the whole country, were still most eager not only to condemn 
the South to a perpetual and hopeless minority, but to restrict 
her from growth in the future, while opening prospects of in 
definite .extension to the North. By this policy it was evident 
that the North would in time acquire such a majority in both 
Houses of Congress that she could alter the Constitution to her 
own liking, and thus have the South, bound hand and foot, at 
her mercy. 

The Territorial question afforded an admirable fulcrum for 
applying the lever. It seemed so reasonable and equitable to 
say, " We do not desire to interfere with any of your rights : 
what the Constitution protects you in shall not be meddled with. 
But we do object to your carrying slavery into new Territories 
where it does not now exist; and on this basis we will resist 
you." That is : all future Territories, and all future States, no 
matter how acquired, shall be ours and not yours. 
236 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 237 

Upon this basis the Free-Soil party was formed, and grew 
with such rapidity that in the election of 1848 it was able to 
poll nearly three hundred thousand votes. 

The question with regard to the organization of California 
had become most pressing, too, for another reason. The dis 
coveries of gold had attracted multitudes of people, including 
lawless adventurers from all parts of the world, with little 
respect for the rights of others or the welfare of society ; and an 
organized government was a matter of prime necessity. All 
this had been left by the Thirtieth Congress to its successor, which 
assembled on the 5th of December. 

Mr. Stephens reached Washington about the last of Novem 
ber, and found everything betokening a stormy session. He 
writes on December 2d : 

" To-morrow is the great day for organizing the House ; and the ele 
ments without" [a fierce snow-storm was raging] "are not very unlike 
the elements of passion which are now beclouding and casting a chilling 
darkness over coming events. My most serious apprehensions of the diffi 
culties before us will, I fear, be realized ; the indications of most boisterous 
times are looming upon the horizon. I never saw greater sectional feeling 
exhibited. The North is insolent and unyielding. What is to be the 
result I cannot imagine. Winthrop will not get the entire Southern vote. 
I shall not vote for him myself. Last night, in caucus, we wanted the 
Northern Whigs to agree not to press the [Wilmot] Proviso, and not to 
favor or vote for the abolition of slavery in the District. This they would 
not do. I believe they are bent on mischief. 

" I quitted the meeting, as did Toombs, Cabell, Morton, Hilliard, Owen, 
and some others. I told them distinctly and positively that I should hold 
no connection with a party that did not disconnect itself from these ag 
gressive abolition movements. And I intend to abide by what I have said. 
I think the Northern Whigs intend to pass some obnoxious measure in 
reference to slavery, to compel President Taylor either to veto it or to sign 
it. But enough of this now. I am perhaps under too much excitement. 
My Southern blood and feelings are up, and I feel as if I am prepared to 
fight at all hazards and to the last extremity in vindication of our honor 
and rights . . . 

u The Whigs, I understand, after we left, nominated Winthrop, and then 
refused to nominate a Clerk, because he would have to be taken from the 
South, and that they did not intend to grant. The North, according to 
their views, is hereafter to have all the offices. No Southern slaveholder 
is to have any. But enough. Good-night." 



238 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

On the next day he writes : 

" The House met to-day at 12 M., 221 members only present, and bal 
loted four times for Speaker, without electing. The vote stood : For Cobb, 
103 ; AVinthrop, 96 ; Wilmot, 8 ; Gentry, 6, and several scattering. The 
six votes for Gentry were given by Toombs, Cabell, Morton, Owen, Hil- 
liard, and myself. I consider his election out of the question, unless the 
North makes a point on him. There was no angry talk in the House to 
day 5 but the feeling is deep and intense. We are to meet again to-morrow, 
and how many days in succession to go through the same operation I can 
not say. 

" The Administration here is in bad condition. I consider it as almost 
in extremis. The truth is, the Cabinet do not understand their business. 
The greatest blunders that were ever made by man have been made by 
them all over the United States. The cry of disappointment from all 
quarters is worse than it is in Georgia. Clayton is greatly censured, and, 
I think, justly. He has failed to redeem his most solemn promises. . . . 
I have had long talks with Northern Whigs to-day, calm and dispassionate, 
and they seemed disposed to yield nothing. They intend to carry abolition 
anywhere they can by the Constitution. That is their determination as a 
party. I sometimes think their notion is to get rid of General Taylor for 
the succession, by forcing him to veto some such measure. With such a 
party I cannot act? 7 /" 

December Jfih. . . . "Few changes in the votes to-day. I am more 
and more convinced every day that the Slave question is rapidly approach 
ing a crisis. ! the South intends really to resist the abolition of slavery 
in the District and the forts and arsenals, it is time they were making the 
necessary preparations of men and money, arms and munitions, etc., to 
meet the emergency?] I speak plainly and frankly. It is no time for hum 
bug resolutions ofgasconade. No step should be taken unless we intend to 
stick to the constitutional Union at every hazard. For myself, after thinking 
of this subject as dispassionately as I could for several days under the excite 
ment here, I hesitate not to say that, in my opinion, a maintenance of our 
honor, to say nothing of vindication of our rights, requires us to resist the 
aggression^ In my course here, while I shall pursue in all things the policy 
which I shall believe will most likely avert such a result, yet I shall yield 
nothing to the aggressor. ) It is becoming bootless now to quai rel with 
ourselves about who contributed most to the present state of things. I 
believe the agitators of the South for several years have done more to 
eifect it than all others united. But as Southern men we must look things 
in the face as we find them. Our fortunes are united, and our destiny 
must be common. 

u It is also bootless to count the chances of success in a struggle with 
the Federal Government. No people who are not fit for the lowest degra 
dation count the cost or hazard of defending their honor or their rights. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 239 

It is better to fall in a manly struggle than to live and fatten in inglorious 
ease. And I would rather to-day see the whole Southern race buried in 
honorable graves than see them insolently trampled over by such canting, 
whining, puling hypocrites as are now setting themselves up as their judges 
and reformers. I would rather see Georgia share the fate of Hungary 
or Poland than see her truckling to the dictation of Northern hordes of 
Goths and Vandals who are now threatening her with their power. 

" But this is the gloomiest side of the picture. I do not think we should 
be so easily subdued. We have spirit and energy, and we should have 
friends also. Let us, then, be firm. These views I give you in the worst 
aspect of the question. Perhaps all this may be averted. I shall do all 
in my power to avert it." 

December 5th. ll Another day passed and nothing done. . . . The feel 
ing of the North now seems abating. Perhaps a large portion of them 
may yet be brought to terms. If so, a great deal will be gained. . . . 
I find the feeling among the Southern members for a dissolution of the 
Union if the anti-slavery [measures] should be pressed to extremity- 
is becoming much more general than at first. Men are now beginning 
to talk of it seriously, who, twelve months ago, hardly permitted them 
selves to think of it. And the North is beginning to count the cost. Not 
the Free-Soilers, but the mercantile class. I shall not yet despair of the 
Republic ; but while I hope for the best, I am for being prepared for the 
worst." 

December 12ih. " As for the state of things here, it gets no better 
fast. We had the most .disgraceful scene in the House to-day you ever 
witnessed. The Democrats had formed a coalition with the Free-Soilers 
for the election of Brown, of Indiana. The bargain was discovered just 
before it was finally consummated. Brown had pledged himself to the 
Free-Soilers to give them satisfactory Committees on the Territories and 
on this District. Upon this Wilmot, Giddings, & Co. voted for him side 
by side with Cobb, of Georgia, Burt, of South Carolina, and all the rest 
of the same stripe. Somehow or other the secret got out just before the 
vote was finally taken or announced, and Seddon, Bocock, and McMullen, 
of Virginia, changed their votes and defeated the election by two votes. 
Then the disclosure was made, and such a row you never saw. We broke 
up pretty much in a row, and where or when the matter will end no one 
Can tell." 

It is easy now to see that all this could have but one end, 
though the final catastrophe was delayed for eleven years. When 
the ship, in the Eastern story, is Hearing the lodestone rock, be 
fore the crash and break-up come, the pins and bolts fly from 
the timbers. Amid all the storms through which the ship of 
the Union had hitherto passed, the sections, however strained, 



240 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

had been bound together by the continuity of the great parties, 
by the existence of a large and powerful body of Democrats at 
the North and of Whigs at the South. But now, under the 
irresistible attraction of sectionalism, the bolts began to fly. We 
see Northern Whigs " determined as a party to carry abolition 
anywhere they can." We see Northern Democrats entering into 
secret coalition with the Free-Soilers. We see Southern Whigs 
and Democrats indignant and alarmed ; and the man who of 
all the Congress had perhaps the strongest and most disinterested 
attachment to the Union, saying that it is time to be considering 
the question of resistance, and preferring for his beloved State 
the fate of Hungary or Poland to the degradation of " truck 
ling to the dictation of the North." Had the South been wise, 

O 7 

she would have made ready in time for the storm that was sure 
to come. But there were always flattering voices proclaiming 
" peace, peace," when nothing but a truce was possible, and 
assuring that the next compromise or compact would be certainly 
observed, despite the experience of the past. Then, among a 
large portion of the people there was a pathetic unreasoning 
devotion to "the Union;" not the wise attachment that prized it 
only so far as it was the means toward an e.nd, but a sort of blind 
fetish- worship that looked upon it as something in itself su 
premely sacred and precious, even though it should have failed 
to accomplish the objects for which it had been established. 
With these a few empty and resonant phrases about " the great 
and glorious Union," " the best government the world ever saw," 
etc., produced an effect in the way of blinding them to their 
interests and their rights, to the history of the past, and the in 
evitably approaching catastrophe, that we can only call magical, 
since it confounds all reason. Truly the South in these days 
was the antitype of Sterne s father, whom "you might have 
cheated ten times a day, if nine had not been sufficient for your 
purpose." 

December 15th. " I send you to-day two papers containing the reports 
of the speeches of Toombs and myself, with others of the House, day 
before yesterday. That was the most exciting day I ever witnessed in that 
Hall. . . . How or when we shall get a Speaker I do not see. I am still 
of opinion that the Legislature [of Georgia, then in session] ought to take 
no stand that they will not in good faith carry out to the bitter end. . . . 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 241 

K If they intend to fight in any contingency, let them say so; and if they 
\ do not, let them not say so. There is but one step from the sublime to the 
\ ridiculous, in politics as well as in poetry." 

December 17th. u We remain in stain quo ante l>ellum. No Speaker 
yet. But you know the old adage: money makes the mare go : and I 
think, from indications within the last forty-eight hours, that landladies 
and landlords bills will begin to operate in a few days. The members 
begin to want money terribly, and there is no getting a dollar except on 
credit until the House organizes. But for the root of all evil, I believe 
the House would probably never organize as now constituted. Since the 
speaking was stopped in the House, the excitement seems to have abated. 

1 There is nothing so effectual against quarrels as silence. We have been 

voting all day without coming within cannon-shot of an election. I think 
we have effectually scotched the movement fur abolition in the District for 
this Congress." 

December 18th. . . . I have no idea when we shall elect a Speaker, but 
if the South would follow my lead, and act with my spirit, NEVER, until 
the North came to terms with us upon our rights. This is my kind of 
resistance, at least for the present." 

December 31st. . . . " You will see Cobb s* Committees in the Globe to 
morrow. I don t think he has given general satisfaction. I shall not 
serve on the Committee he has put me on." 

In reference to these events Mr. Stephens writes, in April, 

1869: 

" The Whigs had carried the House, but the Northern wing was greatly 
demoralized on the sectional question. My purpose and Tooinbs s was to 
bring them to terms on this question of the Speakership. This, in my 
opinion, then and now, could have been done if the Southern Democrats 
had taken and adhered to a like position. But they did not seem to me 
then to be sincere in the matter. They seemed to use it only for party 
purposes. Hence they let go, elected their Speaker, and made all the 
capital they could out of the divisions in the Whig party. The great evil 
was but postponed and aggravated." 

This conduct of the Southern Democrats in the House had 
much to do in determining Mr. Stephens in his conclusions in 
regard to the wisdom and expediency of secession. In other 
letters written in the latter part of this year, we find indications 
of a growing belief that the denunciations of Northern aggres 
sion, and threats of what the South would do if this course were 

*Ho\vell Cobb, of Georgia, a Democrat, was elected Speaker on the 22d, 
under a resolution of the House making, on this occasion, a mere plurality 
of votes sufficient to elect. 

16 



242 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

persisted in, were in great part mere blaster of the political 
leaders. He was coming to the conclusion that while the North 
was growing ever more regardless of the constitutional rights of 
the South, the latter was becoming more and more incapable of 
offering effectual resistance. 

Another old friend dies on this 31st of December. But he is 
in no mood for moralizing. Perhaps this has not been so much 
of a friend, for he cares not to sit up and watch ; so inclosing in 
his letter a charade and a puzzle for his brother s amusement; he 
goes to bed. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

Calhoun, Clay, and Webster in the Senate Signs of the Times President 
Taylor s Policy A Glance into the Future Dismemberment of the 
Union Inevitable What the South should do Mr. Clay s Compromise 
Resolutions Mr. Clay s Speech A Sketch of the Scene and the Audi 
ence Sorrow for a Humble Friend A Wedding in Low Life Death 
of Calhoun The Galphin Claim Seward s Plot The Secretary of State 
and Sir Henry Bulwer " A most Wonderful Characteristic of our 
People" Sits for his Portrait Hot Debates in both Houses Principle 
of Non-interference established Death of President Taylor Passage 
of Mr. Clay s Bill, and Renewed Pledges of the Northern States- 
Georgia Resolutions Jenny Lind. 

STORMILY the old year had closed, and stormily the new year 
entered. No previous Congress had had within it such fierce 
elements of contention. Sectionalism was making rapid strides; 
and the voices of those who counselled peace and justice were 
lost in the general clamor. Steadily but surely the forces were 
gathering into solid phalanx, North against South ; the Norjth 
seeing in the future a tempting vision of absolute power, and 
the South beginning to feel that withdrawal from the Union or 
unconditional submission would, ere long, be the only alterna 
tives left her. 

Still, there were men whose wisdom, patriotism, and eminent 
position did much to avert for a time the inevitable catastrophe. 
Mr. Clay had returned to the Senate, where he joined Mr. Web 
ster and Mr. Calhoun, so that " the great Trio/ 7 as they were 
called, were again in the arena. 

On January 15th, 1850, Mr. Stephens writes to Linton: 

u The general signs of the times augur no good, as I read them. Men s 
minds are unsettled. The temper of the country is fretful. The cen 
trifugal tendency in our system is now decidedly in the ascendant." 

January 21st. " In the message received to-day you will see that the 
policy of General Taylor is that the people inhabiting the new acquisitions 
shall come into the Union as States, without the adoption of Territorial 

243 



244 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

governments. To this policy he is, and considers himself, committed. 
And I now believe if any Territorial government [bill] should be passed 
with the Wilmot Proviso in it, he would withhold his approval. We shall 
therefore most probably have California and New Mexico as States before 
long. But the bearing of this policy on the great questions of the day is 
a matter still to be considered. Will the Slavery question be settled in 
this way ? I think not. My deliberate opinion at this time, or the opinion 
I have formed from the best lights before me, is that it will be the begin 
ning of an end which will be the severance of the political bonds that 
unite the slaveholding and non-slaveholding States of this Union. I give 
you this view rather in opposition to the one I ventured to express on the 
evening of the 25th of December. I then looked to settlement and adjust 
ment and a preservation of the Union ; and as far as I then saw on the 
horizon, I think the opinion was correct. There will, perhaps, be a tem 
porary settlement and a temporary quiet. But I have lately been taking 
a farther and a bi oader view of the future. When I look at the causes 
of the present discontent, j5Tam persuaded there will ,never again be har 
mony between the two great sections of the Unionj/ When California and 
New Mexico and Oregon and Nebraska are admitted as States, then the 
majority in the Senate will be against us. The power will be with them 
to harass, annoy, and oppress. And it is a law of power to exert itself, 
as universal as it is a law of nature that nothing shall stand still. Cast 
your eye. then, a few years into the future, and see what images of strife 
are seen figuring on the boards ! In the halls of Congress, nothing but 
debates about the crimes and the iniquity of slavery, and the duty of the 
General Government to withhold all countenance of the unholy institution 
of -human bondage. Can Southern men occupy seats in- the halls of a 
Legislature with this constant reproach ? It is not reasonable. It is more 
than I expect. It is more than (human nature can expect. The present 
crisis may pass ; the present^djustmentrmay be made ; but the great 
question of the permanence of slavery in the Southern States will be far 
from being settled thereby. And, in my opinion, the crisis of that ques 
tion is not far ahead. The very palliatives how so soothingly administered 
do but more speedily develop the stealthy disease which is fast approach 
ing the vitals. . . .MVIy opinion is that a disraembernien^ of this Republic 
is not among the improbabilities of a few years to comeT In all my acts 
I shall look to that event. I shall do nothing to favor it or hasten, but I 
now consider it inevitable. 

"Were I in our Legislature, I should certainly vote against any resolu 
tions on the admission of California and New Mexico, or any other State, 
because of clauses in their Constitutions against slavery. That is not a 
point on which to make an issue. The South was injured by the acquisi 
tion under the treaty which provided for their admission, not by the fulfil 
ment of the obligations of the treaty after it has been ratified in all due 
forms known to our Constitution. But I should not say much in praise 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 245 

of the Union. C I see nohnjip^jo^thft South from th^ ..Ujoinn. I do not 

believe much in resoTutions, any way. I am a good deal like Troup in 
this particular. If I were now in the Legislature, I should introduce bills 
reorganizing the militia, for the establishment of a military school, the 
encouragement of the formation of volunteer companies, the creation of 
arsenals, of an armory, and an establishment for making gunpowder. In 
these lies our defence. \J_tell you the argument is exhausted ; and if the 
South do not intend to be overrun with anti-slavery doctrines, they must, 
before no distant day, stand by their arms.? My mind is made up ; I am 
for the fight, if the country will back me. And if not, we had better 
have no Resolutions and no gasconade. They will but add to our 
degradation. 

^"" In reference to the Legislature, I should prefer that nothing should be 
done in the way of resolutions, but the expression of the fixed and unani 
mous determination of our State to support the Union under the Consti- 
; tution and its compromises, and to resist to the utmost of our means any 
(violation of its letter and spirit by Congress, so far as the institution of 
[slavery is concerned. These are my feelings, and this is the language I 
sKould hold. Partisans and demagogues might take care of themselves. 
To this complexion it will come at last, (it is a great mistake to suppose 
that the South can stave off this question^-^^ have, ultimately, to submit 
or fight. .^. 

a Tlie Wilinot Proviso will not pass. That is an obsolete idea. Slavery 
will not be abolished in the District this Congress, and perhaps not in six 
or eight years. But it will be done in the lifetime of those now on the 
stage of action ; and the South will be held up by public sentiment in the 
North, and in the halls of Congress, to the whole world as polluted with 
the crime of human .bondage. My course shall be directed to the future. 
I shall regard with little interest the events of the few intervening years. 
" I consider the Wilinot Proviso a humbug. In itself it is a dispute 
about * goats wool. I should regard its passage as a good cause of re 
sistance only so far as it might be considered an insult to the South. The 
expression to the world of the deliberate opinion of the Federal Government 
that institutions tolerated in the South deserve public censure and national 
odium, would be no small offence to the people of fifteen States of the 
Union. / 

" One other though tS^Cpuld the South maintain a separate political 
organization? On this I havetkeught a great deal. It has been the most 
perplexing question to my mind. The result of my reflections is that she 
could, if herpeople be united. She would maintain her position, I think, 
better than the North. She has great elements of power. But I cannot 
dwell upon this now." 

On January 29th, Mr. Clay presented a series of Resolutions 
known as his " Compromise/ on the subjects of chief agitation 



246 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

at the time, or what he called " the five bleeding wounds." 
These were : the admission of California as a State under the 
Constitution she had prepared ; the organization of Territorial 
governments for Utah and New Mexico ; the settlement of the 
boundary between New Mexico and Texas ; slavery in the Dis 
trict of Columbia ; the non-rendition of fugitives from service. 
On these Resolutions Mr. Clay delivered one of his most cele 
brated speeches, of which we shall hear more presently. 

Of the nature of these Resolutions Mr. Stephens thus speaks 
in his Constitutional View of the War (vol. ii. p. 199) : 

" To understand the bearing of his Resolutions and the difference 
between them and the final acts of Congress on the subjects embraced by 
them, it is proper to state that before the meeting of this session of Con 
gress, and without any authority from Congress, the people of California 
had, during the summer of 1849, under a proclamation of General Riley, 
of the United States army, then in command of that military district, 
called a convention which had framed a constitution with an exclusion of 
slavery, and asked to be admitted as a State into the Union under it. This 
was understood to have been done in pursuance of the policy of General 
Taylor s Administration, which was to get rid of the vexed question by 
stimulating the people of the Territories to form State constitutions, with 
the exclusion of slavery in them, and for them thus to apply for admission 
into the Union without any previous authority from Congress. This policy 
met the approval of very few of any party. To say nothing of other con 
siderations, the people of Utah and New Mexico were in no condition to 
become States. 

u Mr. Clay^s Compromise proposed to admit California under the con 
stitution so formed ; to organize Territorial governments for Utah and 
New Mexico, without any restriction as to slavery 5 to settle the question 
of boundary between New Mexico and Texas, by negotiation with that 
State ; to pass an efficient act for the rendition of fugitive slaves, and 
to abolish the slave-trade, as it was called, in the District of Columbia. 
These propositions, taken together, like the Administration plan, satisfied 
very few members, either of the Senate or the House. The great majority 
of the North were utterly unwilling to abandon the restriction of slavery 
in the Territories. A formidable minority of the same section was equally 
unwilling to comply with that clause of the Constitution requiring the 
rendition of fugitive slaves. This latter class, also, were not satisfied with 
the bare suppression of the slave-trade in the District of Columbia, but 
insisted upon a total abolition. 

"On the Southern side, an overwhelming majority were opposed to 
the admission of California as a State, under the constitution so formed, 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 247 

irregularly, and without the authority of law. The class of Southern 
Whigs referred to were willing to admit California under her constitution , 
but required that in the organization of the Territorial governments for 
Utah and New Mexico, the people from the South, settling and colonizing 
those Territories, should be permitted to carry their slaves with them, if 
they chose ; and that the whole people, then, should be permitted to frame 
such constitutions as they might please in reference to African slavery ; 
and upon their application for admission into the Union, they should be 
received as States without any Congressional restriction upon that subject." 

February 10th. In answer to some of his brother s strictures 
on the conduct of certain members of the Georgia Legislature 
he has much to say, of which this is a part : 



. 



" I would not for the world court the good will of either a knave or 
fool by the sacrifice of principle ; but I would not quarrel with them, 
nor change my conduct towards them because of their not appreciating 

my motives or conduct. I look upon as a most consummate 

knave, and yet I suppose he will be sent to the N[ashville] Convention] 
and there take a high stand on Southern Rights ! . . . What is to become 
of us I cannot tell. But everything I see around me augurs the approach 
o anarchy. The opinion I gave you some time ago is strengthened by 
time. I see no prospect of a continuance of this Union long. The Nash 
ville Convention will be held. It will be the nucleus of another sectional 
assemblage. A fixed alienation of feeling will be the result. The anti- 
slavery feeling and feeling of dismemberment may be abated, but it will 
return with increased force. It is the idea of the age, the uionomania of 
the century in which we live. Its march is onward, steady and stealthy, 
like the approach of some mystejaous epidemic. When, where, or how it 
is to end, God only knows. Slf we had virtue and patriotism among our 
people and not demagogism, Ishould hope much from a Southern Confed 
eracy. But I fear such men as andLc ^ and all of that class, can 
not safely control the destinies of any pex>pje. j They may create a revolu 
tion, but they cannot build up a good government. Other heads, other 
hands, and other hearts will be necessary for such a work. We have the 
ability, the/natural position, and the resources for a great and prosperous 
people. ^AH the elements of power and progress are still within reach. 
I All we want is the good sense, the forecast, the sound judgment, and the 
proper principles to exert them rightly^n order to give us all that a 
nation ought to have for its elevation arrri>,renown. f But I fear we should 
soon degenerate into factions headed by bad leaders who would look only) 
to their own distinction. We must, however, make the most and the best 
[of events?] as they pass. Great ones are ahead of us, of this I feel 
certain. I The next quarter of a century will be an important epoch in the 



248 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

history of the Western Continent. Those who are now entering into life 
will necessarily be conspicuous actors in it." 

February llth. " The California Constitution has at length arrived. 
. . . My opinion as to what will be the proper course upon the admission 
of California is not yet made up. It will depend upon so many events 
and developments, that I have thought it wise not to be hasty in coming to 
a conclusion. Everything here is uncertain. We are like a set of fellows 
at sea, trying to make port in a fog. There is no seeing a rod before you, 
and no one pretends to know where we are drifting. There is a great 
deal in luck I have heard you say : my greatest hope at this time for safety 
is in some fortunate turn of that sort; or rather, I would say, that my 
greatest hope is in the hands of Providence. I hope all will yet turn out 
well; but I do not see how or when. The dark hour, it is said, is just 
before day : may it be so with regard to our present position of affairs ! I 
do not, however, feel half that gloomy spirit that I felt three winters ago 
when the war was raging and I saw all these difficulties in the distance. 
The storm-cloud was then gathering ; and as in nature the most painful 
and terrible moment is when the horizon is blackening with the coming 
tempest, s<5 is it with me in this matter. The fury of the gale gives life to 
the scene. Nothing is so depressing to the spirits as the hushed calm which 
precedes the devastating whirl of the tornado or sweep of the torrent. 
When it is upon you, there is some exhilaration in its force and fury, a 
feeling somewhat kindred to the excitement of battle. Such is iny con 
dition now, and such is the condition of things here, and hence I never 
spent a more cheerful and agreeable winter in Washington. The same 
remark, I believe, is applicable to all around me. The members are all 
friendly in their intercourse ; and to see Northern and Southern men 
together you would not suppose there was anything like enmity between 
them." 

February 20tli. After a long and rather humorous description 
of that humorous personage, Senator Foote, Mr. Stephens com 
ments on the fact of there being at the time so remarkable a 
conjunction of distinguished orators and statesmen in the Senate. 
He singles out Calhoun, Webster, Clay, and Benton as stars of 
the first magnitude and " master-spirits of the last quarter of a 
century, at least on this continent." A little below them he places 
Cass, and a little lower, but still distinguished, Houston, of 
Texas. He then refers to Mr. Clay s speech on his Resolutions : 

" The excitement in the country, the magnitude and importance of the 
subject, as well as the eager desire of thousands to hear him, the great 
orator of the age, these feelings had extended not only throughout this 
city and Baltimore, but the news that he was to speak on that day [Feb- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 249 

ruary 5th] had gone to Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, and from all 
these places and many others more distant men and women had come in 
great numbers to see and hear him." 

Some of the prominent persons are thus sketched : 

, . . . "Millard Fillmore, occupying the conspicuous seat erected for 
the second officer of the Government. . . . His countenance is open and 
bland, his chest full. His eye is bright, blue, and intelligent ; his hair 
thick and slightly gray. His personal appearance is striking ; and no one 
can look at him without feeling conscious that he is a man far above the 
average. On his right, near the aisle leading to the front door, sits Cass 
with his hands folded in his lap as if to hold up his protruding and super 
incumbent abdomen ; his sleepy-looking eyes occasionally glancing at the 
galleries, and then at the crowd pressing in below. Ben ton sits in his 
well-known place, leaning back in his chair, and giving all who desire it 
a full view of his person. One vacant seat is seen not far off on the same 
side of the House. A vacant seat in such a crowd excites the attention of 
all. Whose seat is that? goes in whispers around. It is Calhoun s, 
not well enough to be out yet. Who is that sitting by Cass? says one. 
That is Buchanan, come all the way from home to hear Clay. What 
thin-visaged man is that standing over yonder and constantly moving? 
What, that old skeleton of a man yonder ? Yes. That is Ritchie of 
the Union. Who is that walking down the aisle with that uncouth coat 
and all that hair about his chin? Did you ever see such a swaggerer? 
He can t be a Senator. That is Sam Houston. But where is Webster? 
I don t see him/ He is in the Supreme Court, where he has a case to 
argue to-day. See Corwin, and Badger, and Berrien, and Dawson, all 
near Clay ; all of them quiet while Clay pursues his writing. On the 
opposite side, Butler, and Foote, and Clemens, and Douglas. 

" After the carriage of the motion of Mr. Mangum to proceed to the 
consideration of the order of the day, Mr. Clay folds his papers and puts 
them in his desk, and after the business is announced, rises gracefully and 
majestically. Instantaneously there is a general applause, which Mr. Clay 
seems not to notice. The noise within is heard without, and the great 
crowd raised such a shout that Mr. Clay had to pause until the officers 
went out and cleared all the entrances, and then he began. He spoke on 
that day two hours and fifteen minutes. The speech was reported in the 
Globe word for word as he uttered it. I never saw such a report before. 
His voice was good, his enunciation clear and distinct, his action firm, 
his strength far surpassing my expectation. He had the riveted gaze of 
the multitude the whole time. When he concluded, an immense throng of 
friends, both men and women, came up to congratulate and to kiss him." 

February 24th. " Toombs will make a speech this week, and so will I, 
if I get well enough. We do not intend to defend the position of Georgia 
Democrats in their resolutions in the Legislature touching the admis- 



250 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

sion of California. Whether I shall vote finally for it is not certain, and 
will depend upon other matters. If it can be connected with such other 
schemes of compromise as I am in favor of, I shall certainly vote for it. It 
is said here by some who pretend to be informed, that Mr. AVebster intends 
shortly to make a speech which will win him golden opinions from the 
Potomac to the Rio Grande. How it will turn out I cannot say. I give 
it to you only as one of the on dits, and I do that sub rosa. " 1 

March 6th. This is in answer to a letter communicating the 
probable death by an accident of a humble kinsman, Andrew 
Jones. 

" Poor Andy ! How often have I thought of him ! How often have I 
sympathized with him ! and how often, when furthest removed from him, 
has my compassion gone out to him ! Many of the joyous days of my 
boyhood were spent with him. In my tender years, when oppressed with 
real and imaginary trouble, when I had no one to condole with me, I often 
sought him out and found relief in his innocent and simple diversions. 
Whole days and nights I have taken refuge from the buffeting world in the 
sunshine of his mild and gentle spirit. In the hours of bitterest affliction 
he was always near to administer comfort to the best of his ability. . . . 
The day father died, when I went out into the old field and threw myself 
upon the ground almost crushed with anguish, Andy was near me. He 
lay by my side upon the grass, and lamented as if he too had lost a father. 
And can it be true that his body was mangled and life extinguished with 
no kind hand to minister to his sufferings? Oh, Andy, Andy! would I 
could have been there in your last moments ! . . . Life has many changes. 
I have passed through many, and perhaps many more are in store for me, 
but I never can forget my early associations with Andy. . . . Poor fellow ! 
Our lots in life have been cast in different places; but it makes my heart 
bleed to think of the past and to think of him. . . . Well, no marble may 
mark his grave ; but the sod above him shall not beunbedewed with tears, 
should I ever be permitted to pay such a tribute to his memory. . . . Last 
Friday night, the night before this accident, I had a dream that filled me 
with apprehension that some bad news would reach me. In my dream I 
saw brother. I knew him : I talked to him. But oh how changed from 
the likeness he used to wear ! He seemed to be a messenger from another 
world, but vanished before announcing the object of his mission. I tried 
to talk to him of his own last sufferings, but got no reply. . . . Life is full 
of mutation. We are all but bubbles on the tide of time. There will soon 
be left but few of my former friends ; but as the number grows smaller, 
my love for them increases. As the hopes of life die out, my spirit turns 
toward the graves of my departed friends. I have stronger inclinations 
towards home now than ever. I am utterly sick of this place, of public 
men and public affairs. . . . But I am grieved and afflicted, and will close 
this disconsolate strain by bidding you good-night." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 251 

March 24th. A bit of home-news. A neighbor s servant* has 
put in a request to have Eliza (his cook) to wife. He has no 
objection. 

"Tell Eliza to go to Sloman s and get her a wedding-dress, including a 
pair of shoes, and to have a decent wedding of it. Let them cook a sup 
per, and have such of their friends as they wish. Tell them to get some 
parson man and be married like Christian folks. Let the wedding come 
off some time when you are at home, so that you may keep order among 
them. Buy a pig, and let them have a good supper. Let Eliza bake some 
pound-cake, and set a good wedding-table." 

March 29th. " Since Tuesday I have been busy investigating the charge 
of Preston King against the Speaker. The Committee reported yesterday. 
Their report was unanimous, and was also unanimously adopted by the 
House. A baser or more malignant, as well as groundless, charge was 
never made against any man than that against Cobb. It was without the 
color of a pretext." 

March 31st. " The Angel of Death has just passed by, and his shadow 

is seen lingering upon the startled countenances of all. A great man has 

just fallen Calhoun! His race is ended. His restless and fiery spirit 

sleeps in that deep and long repose which awaits all the living. He died 

Ihis morning about seven o clock. Peace to his ashes! His name will 

n long be remembered in the history of this country. He has closed his 

/ career at a. most eventful period of that history, and perhaps it is most 

(fortunate for his fame that he died just at this time." 

April 4th. A letter mostly about the Galphin claim, in which 
Governor Crawford, of Georgia, then Secretary of War, was 
interested, and from which he received one hundred and eighteen 
thousand dollars. Much blame was heaped on Mr. Crawford 
in reference to this matter. Mr. Stephens writes : 

" Of course Crawford is not to be blamed in any respect. For the claim 
was not adjusted in his department. It was allowed and settled by the 
Secretary of the Treasury on the opinion of the Attorney-General ; and it 
is but just to those officers, and it should be known that neither of them 
knew that their colleague in the Cabinet had any interest in the claim 
until after it was adjusted and paid. Crawford was by contract of fifteen 
years to have half of the recovery. He is a lucky man in old claims, but 
a purer man, I believe, is rarely to be met with." 

April 12th. " The state of affairs fills me with deep interest and con 
cern for the future. We have great troubles ahead. Campbell, the Clerk, 
died to-day. We shall have trouble in electing a successor, and lots of 

* Harry, afterwards widely known as the faithful major-domo of Liberty 
Hall. 



252 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

troubles beside. I am beginning to look for a general bloiv-up before long. 
This Administration cannot get along with this Government. I am pained 
and made heart-sick at witnessing their folly." 

April loth. " I feel less interest in politics, and particularly in parties, 
than I ever did. I don t think, if spared many a year to come, that I 
should ever again feel any deep interest in the success of any ticket upon, 
mere party considerations. The principles at issue, and the men before 
the country, combined, shall always hereafter control my vote. (AJl^parties 
are corrupQand all party organizations are kept up by bad men for cor 
rupt purposes. I am out of party. I have been very much pained lately 
at seeing the course of men that I once thought well of, and for whose 
elevation to office I strove so hard. My only consolation is the conscious 
ness of the integrity of my own motives. I looked to nothing but the 
common good and prosperity of the country. I was green enough to sup 
pose that there was such a thing as disinterested patriotism. I find I was 
mistaken. I feel mortified at my disappointment ; but bear my mortifica 
tion as I do a bruise or a sprain. I shall endeavor to avoid such accidents 

in future. The men to whom I allude are , , and . These 

men, I think, I had put in the Cabinet: I know I contributed to it. I am 
inclined to feel that the responsibility rests upon me. I would not have 
you understand me as saying anything against them further than that I 

have been disappointed in the course of policy they would pursue. 

is kindly, honest, and, I think, free from all intrigue; but he is wholly 
unfit for his present place. He takes no interest in public affairs ; he con 
sults with nobody on the propriety of his appointments, and makes great 

blunders in them. As for , I am much more disappointed in him, for 

I find he is a scheming, intriguing politician. . . . He has done more to 
ruin this Administration, I think, than all the members of the Cabinet 
together. He has Taylor s confidence. Taylor is pure and honest : his 
impulses are right; but he suffers his own judgment to be controlled 

by others , and by no one so much as . The great blunder he made 

was in suffering himself to be influenced by Seward. Seward came it 

over . I have no doubt an alliance was formed between them before 

Congress met. The extent of the implied understanding (to call it nothing 
else) I do not know: but the anti-slavery men of the North were to be 
brought to the support of Taylor by Seward ; not by a surrender of the 
sentiment, but by making Taylor the head of their party, not as an 
abolitionist, but as a liberal man of the South, opposed to the extension of 
slavery, and willing for the majority of the men of the North to carry out 
any measure they might think proper. The Whig party, in other words, 
was to absorb the Free-Soil party in the North, and become the great anti- 
slavery party of the nineteenth century. The Locos at the North would 
be put down by their affiliation with slavery. The whole North would be 
Whig. Taylor would be re-elected, and then Seward would succeed, and 
a long list of successions, doubtless, loomed up in the opening vista. . . . 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 253 

I have told him that his policy would ruin General Taylor. It will break 
down his Administration, North and South, and leave him with a smaller 
party than Tyler had. . . . 

" I told you last fall that in my opinion Taylor would sign the Proviso. 
You may now understand why I thought so. That point alone would not 
have caused me to break with the Whig party ; but I soon saw that the 
expectation was that Winthrop was to be elected by a coalition of the 
Southern Whigs with the Free-Soilers, and the Whig party was to be the 
anti-slavery party. ... If we carry McClernand s Bill, we shall do it 
against the whole power of the Government, and the Whig party will be 
defunct." 

April 17th. " I told you some days ago about the general feeling here 
among the Whigs, North and South, against the Cabinet. That is, I told 
you that a general blow-up might be looked for. I now say that no blow 
up may be expected soon. The Cabinet intend to stand. I don t think 
they intend to correct their errors, but they do intend to hold their places. 
I often hear good things about them, collectively or individually. I heard 
a good one on Clayton the other day. To relish it, you ought to know 
him. He is good-natured, can t deny anybody anything, promises all 
things to all men, and disappoints all. Another feature in his character 
is that he can t keep a secret, a great fault in a Secretary of State. lie 
tells everything that happens in Cabinet meetings, and some things that 
don t; for he sometimes promises a poor fellow an office, and after voting 
against him in the Cabinet, goes out and tells him that he was overruled. 
Well, it so happened not very long ago that the Secretary and Sir Henry* 
Bulwer had a talk, as the report goes, about Nicaragua. The next day, 
or the day after, the substance of the talk appeared in the correspondence 
of one or two Northern papers. This annoyed Sir Henry, and at his next 
interview he said, How is this, Mr. Clayton ? I thought our conversation 
here was private. I have mentioned it to no one, and yet I see what we 
conferred about at our last meeting published in all the papers. Can you 
explain it? This to most men would have been embarrassing, but to our 
Falstaffian Secretary of State it was a small matter. With all imaginable 
composure he said that he could not account for it. Such things annoyed 
him extremely, they perplexed him almost to death. It was owing to 
the character of our people : they were always meddling with things that 
did not concern them. These publications were nothing but the l surmises 
of prurient letter-writers that were a pest of the city. Sir Henry, to this 
rational explanation, replied by barely saying that he had often heard that 
the people of this country were distinguished for the faculty of guessing, 
but he confessed that it exceeded anything he had been prepared to expect. 
The Secretary remarked that it was a most wonderful characteristic of 
our people, sir. They find out everything that is done. They seem to 
me, sir, to find out one s very thoughts. It annoys me to death. " 

April 17th. (Second letter.} . . . " We are just in the midst of the fight 



254 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

here. There never was such a scene in the Senate as was enacted there 
to-day. Clay was in his glory. He rose to his full height and was mag 
nificent. I did. not know such thrilling eloquence was in him. Foote and 
Benton were having a fight." 

April 21st. A long letter of advice to his brother. He is 
not anxious for him to obtain public office, but is most solicit 
ous that he shall establish a reputation and character in the 
community. 

" You have no idea of my solicitude on this point. I have never told 
you how intensely I feel about it. Perhaps it is wrong to indulge such 
feelings, but all the hopes, desires, and ambitions of my life are now cen 
tred in you. I feel as if my race is nearly run. I feel that I am unfit to 
mix among men. I am inclined to retire, at an early day, from public life, 
and seek the pleasures of solitude." 

April 28th, Sunday. He has been very unwell for several 
days, so instead of going to church, stays at home and writes. 

"I thought I should feel better in spending my time in writing to you 
than in turning my attention to the faces and fantastic attire of the fash 
ionable crowd who go up to the house of the Lord in this city of Pharisees. 
If I knew where there was some humble building in the outskirts of the 
town where the meek, the lowly in heart, congregate, I might venture out 
and spend an hour with pleasure and profit to myself; but not knowing any 
such place, I have resolved to stay in my room and talk a little with you." 

May 2d. "From the report of Mr. Webster s speech at Faneuil Hall, 
it seems that he intends to stand up to the rack. He certainly opens 
well. I know it was pretty confidently expected in certain high quarters 
here when he left that his nerves would fail him when he came to speak 
face to face with the Faneuil Hall philanthropists. But I have hopes of 
him now." 

May 7th. " I sat to-day for my portrait. What do you think of that? 
It is one of the strangest events of my life. I never thought before of 
having my portrait taken. I was walking by a committee-room, I saw 
some portraits, walked up to look at them. The man of the brush asked 
me to let him take mine. I told him I might, perhaps, at some other time. 
He said then would do as well as any time : he would not want me to sit 
longer than ten minutes at a time ; so down I sat and to work he went. 
When all was done, I asked him how much he charged for them, lie said 
fifty dollars. I walked off, thinking I was a fool for once. His pictures 
are very good, but fifty dollars is too much for mine. 1 1 

May 10th. " The portrait I mentioned some days ago is completed, and 
a most detestable-looking thing it is. The consolation I have is that all 
my friends say it is no likeness at all. So much for a disposition to en- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 255 

courage the fine arts. . . . The report of the Committee of Thirteen in 
the Senate has come in. Its fate is very doubtful. Great efforts are being 
made to defeat it. These efforts cume from the Free-Soilers, the Northern 
Whigs, and the Southern Democrats. The main bill for the admission 
of California and the creation of governments for Utah and New Mexico, 
is not so good as I should like it to be. The worst feature of it was put 
into it by Southern men on the Committee A It is that which restricts the 
Territorial Legislature from passing any laws respecting African slavery. 
Now when the rights of the South are in such hands, what can be done ? 
I have pretty much made up my mind to go for it, let it come in what 
shape it will, so the Proviso is not in it. I shall make a speech denning 
my position, and asserting that we get nothing by it; that slavery is abol 
ished there, and that without some law passed by the governing power, it 
\_Js_ useless to speak of the constitutional rights of the South. But I shall 
say that in this opinion a majority of the South seem not to concur. There 
has been ample time for a correct opinion to be formed; and now I am 
willing for the matter to be tested. I shall not vote for it as a compromise, 
but simply as a measure to quiet the country. The South will get nothing 
by it. Whether it will pass the Senate or House is now doubtful. A ma 
jority of the Cabinet is hostile to it. ... If the Cabinet is not so6n blown 
up, the Whig party will be worse off than Noah s dove; it will not have 
a dry spot to rest a foot on. I never saw so unfit a body of men as the 
present Cabinet, in the same places. I am utterly astonished at them : 
they have not common sense. Tyler s Cabinet were shrewd men compared 
to them. But enough. I am almost an outsider, and am beginning to 
feel but little interest in politics, I mean party politics. Two years ago 
I took a strong dislike to Mr. Clay. The truth is, he did wrong and be 
haved badly ; but now I am beginning to think well of him again, and 
can but exult occasionally as I see his master-spirit triumphant over oppo 
sition in the Senate." 

May 18th. This being Saturday and a holiday he has taken 
a stroll, and records his meditations in a letter of sixteen pages. 
His walk has led him near the jail, 

" The house of criminals, the strong place for the lawless ; that doubtful 
evidence of civilization, where the innocent are often crowded with the 
guilty. . . ^fhis world s justice is a great farce no, a dark tragedy] I 
never see ajail lhat I do not feel sympathy for all the poor inmates, 
whether guilty or not : and I never see a poor wretch peeping through 
the iron grates without thinking that if all mankind who have done 
nothing worse than he were in similar places, there would be, in all prob 
ability, but few at large. These poor wretches who are punished, even 
when guilty, are only the scapegoats: the great villains are at large." 

The letter thus closes : 



256 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

11 A day is very much like a lifetime. Both have their morning, their 
noon, and their evening. The morning with me was spent in strolling in 
beautiful grounds, over gravelled walks, amid roses and pansies ; the noon 
in action, exercise, looking for places not found, and hunting for a foun 
tain of lost water that did not exist. And then comes the evening with 
its meditation and philosophy. After all, if my life shall prove as pleasant 
on the whole as this day has been, I shall have no cause of complaint. I 
shall desire no greater blessing than to see the sun of its evening go down 
as clearly and gently as the sun of this day is now softly and sadly laying 
his head upon the verge of the western horizon. If this should be my 
fortunate lot, I shall, without -regret, close my career here below, as I do 
this letter, by saying to the world, as I now say to you, Good-by ; and 
may heaven s choicest blessings rest upon you ! " 

Iii June the excitement culminated. On the 15th of that 
month the extreme Northern members having been asked in 
debate if they would ever, under any circumstances, vote for the 
admission of a slave State into the Union, refused to say that 
they would. Mr. Toombs, who had greatly distinguished him 
self by his eloquence in debate, exposed the policy of the Free- 
Soil party, and declared that if the North deprived the South 
of her rights to a just participation in the common territory, 
he, for one, would look upon the Government as alien and 
hostile, and he, for one, would strike for independence. This 
speech produced the greatest excitement, and the House adjourned 
without coming to a vote. 

In the Senate, on the same day, very nearly similar ^excite- 
ment was felt. Mr. Soule, of Louisiana, offered the following 
amendment to that section of Mr. Clay s bill which referred to 
the Territorial government of Utah : 

" And when the said Territory, or any portion of the same, shall be 
admitted as a State, it shall be received into the Union with or without 
slavery as their constitution may prescribe at the time of their admission." 

" This," says Mr. Stephens,* " presented to that body the issue squarely, 
as it had been presented by Mr. Toombs in the House, and covered one 
of the essential points made by the Southern Whigs. When the Missouri 
line was thus for the last time voted down in the House,f the South fell 

* Constitutional View of the War between the States, vol. ii. p. 217. 

} On the llth of June, in the House, Mr. Green s motion that the Missouri 
line should be recognized through all the newly-acquired territory, was 
rejected by a large majority. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 257 

back in almost solid column to their original position. They now main 
tained that there should be no Congressional restriction of slavery, either 
north or south of 36 30 X . On this principle alone \vould they now settle. 
This amendment, therefore, of Mr. Soul6 was the turning-point, and upon 
its adoption everything depended, so far as concerned Mr. Clay s proposed 
Compromise." 

Great anxiety was felt as to the action of several Northern 
Senators, at the head of whom stood Mr. Webster. In an 
eloquent speech he declared himself in favor of the amendment. 
This assured its adoption ; and thus the principle of a division 
of the public domain between the North and South which 
really meant that all this domain was open to the North, but 
only a part of it to the South was done away with ; the 
principle of non-interference by Congress established, and the 
Government brought back to the original and equitable position 
of the South. 

The further history of Mr. Clay s bill, which marks one of 
the most important epochs in the political career of the country, 
is succinctly as follows : On the 1st of August the bill passed 
the Senate, but so modified as to contain only that part providing 
a government for Utah, with Mr. Soule s amendment. Thus it 
went to the House. Then the Senate took the separate parts 
that had been removed, embodied them in separate bills, passed 
them and sent them down to the House. The Utah Bill was 
referred at once to the Committee of the Whole; but on the 
bill for the settlement of the boundary between Texas and Nevv 
Mexico, containing an amendment by Mr. Boyd providing a 
Territorial government for New Mexico (in which the Soul6 
amendment was embodied), there was a long and fierce debate 
and a great display of partisan tactics. Finally, on the 6th of 
September, the bill, with the amendments, was passed by a vote 
of 108 to 97. The Senate concurred in the House amendments, 
and the other measures into which Mr. Clay s " Omnibus" bill 
had been divided, were speedily taken up and passed. 

Thus, by the firmness of the Southern members in both 
Houses of Congress, who had made up their minds that they 
would not remain in the Union unless the South were admitted 
to equal rights in the common domain, if not by an equitable 

17 



258 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

division, then by the removal of all Congressional restrictions 
on slavery in the Territories, this great principle was established. 
a The Compromise/ says Mr. Stephens, " was an agreement on 
the part of the slaveholding States to continue in the Union, in 
consideration of these renewed pledges on the part of the non- 
slaveholding States, through their members and Senators, to 
abide by the Constitution." The South had yet to learn that 
these renewed pledges were no more to be regarded than the 
old ones. 

During the Speakership of Mr. Cobb, at Mr. Stephens s sug 
gestion, a change was made in the mode of reckoning the Con 
gressional and political year, which then began at midnight on 
March 3d, but was changed to begin at noon on March 4th. 

In the month of June there are no letters, Linton being with 
him. The first w,e find of interest bears date July 10th, and 
gives an account of the President s death. It closes : 

" Thus has passed away General Taylor. I had for him a high respect 
and sincere regard. I was mortified almost to death at the folly of his 
Cabinet ; but General Taylor was an honest, well-meaning, patriotic man, 
and if he had obeyed his own impulses instead of being governed by the 
foolish counsels of his Cabinet, his Administration, if he had lived, would 
have been eminently pacific and successful. As it was, with such as he 
had about him, it is perhaps best for him that Providence has removed 
him. He is fortunate in his death." 

The debate on the Territorial Bill, and the distribution of the 
votes both for and against it among the Democrats and Whigs, 
showed clearly that old party-lines were loosening, and that the 
time for a reorganization of parties had come. Mr. Clay and 
other leaders on both sides signed and published a paper, drawn 
up by Mr. Stephens, declaring their intention of supporting no 
candidate for office who would not support the principles now 
established. In Georgia, in December, a State convention was 
held, in which a series of resolutions was passed, which were 
afterwards known as "the Georgia Platform/ and the party 
upholding them as the Constitutional Union Party. The prin 
ciples of the Compromise measures were affirmed by both the 
Whig and Democratic Conventions, held in Baltimore in 1852, 
and met with the approval of the great majority of the people 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 259 

in both sections and of both great parties ; and to his hearty 
approval of them the triumphant election of Mr. Pierce in 
1852 was largely due. 

We append the Georgia Resolutions : 

"GEORGIA RESOLUTIONS OF 1850. 

" To the end that the position of this State may be clearly apprehended 
by her confederates of the South and of the North, and that she may be 
blameless of all future consequences, 

"Be it Resolved by the People of Georgia in Convention assembled, 

First. u That we hold the American Union secondary in importance only 
to the rights and principles it was designed to perpetuate. That past asso 
ciations, present fruition, and future prospects will bind us to it so long 
as it continues to be the safeguard of those rights and principles. 

Second. "That if the thirteen original parties to the compact, bordering 
the Atlantic in a narrow belt, while their separate interests were in 
embryo, their peculiar tendencies scarcely developed, their Revolutionary 
trials and triumphs still green in memory, found union impossible without 
compromise, the thirty-one of this day may well yield somewhat in the con 
flict of opinion and policy, to preserve that Union which has extended the 
sway of republican government over a vast wilderness to another ocean, 
and proportionally advanced their civilization and national greatness. 

Third. " That in this spirit the State of Georgia has- maturely consid 
ered the action of Congress, embracing a series of measures for the 
admission of California into the Union, the organization of Territorial 
governments for Utah and New Mexico, the establishment of a boundary 
between the latter and the State of Texas, the suppression of the slave- 
trade in the District of Columbia, and the extradition of fugitive slaves, 
and (connected with them) the rejection of propositions to exclude slavery 
from the Mexican Territories, and to abolish it in the District of Columbia ; 
and, while she does not wholly approve, will abide by it as a permanent 
adjustment of this sectional controversy. 

Fourth. " That the State of Georgia, in the judgment of this Convention, 
will and ought to resist, even (as a last resort) to the disruption of every 
tie which binds her to the Union, any future act of Congress abolishing 
slavery in the District of Columbia, without the consent and petition of 
the slaveholders thereof; or any act abolishing slavery in places within the 
slaveholding States, purchased by the United States for the erection of 
forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, navy-yards, and other like purposes ; 
or any act suppressing the slave-trade between slaveholding States ; or any 
refusal to admit as a State any Territory applying, because of the existence 
of slavery therein ; or any act prohibiting the introduction of slaves into 
the Territories of Utah and New Mexico ; or any act repealing or mater 
ially modifying the laws now in force for the recovery of fugitive slaves. 



200 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Fifth. "That it is the deliberate opinion of this Convention that upon 
the faithful execution of the Fugitive Slave Bill by the proper authorities 
depends the preservation of our much-loved Union." 

There are only four or five more letters of this year. In 
Charleston Mr. Stephens heard Jenny Lind sing, and says in 
several letters that he would like to give Lintotf some idea of 
the impression her singing made upon him. This he never 
quite does ; but by the references to it, the impression would 
seem to have been remarkable. He is not himself much of a 
musician, though he can turn an old-fashioned tune not un- 
melodiously, especially before breakfast ; and the voice of the 
"Swedish nightingale" seems to have given glimpses into a world 
of harmony heretofore undreamed of, and for which he can find 
no adequate expression. 



CHAPTER XXV. 

Rio, the Dog The Secret of Mr. Stephens s Life The Campaign of 1851 
Re-election to the House Disappointed Curiosity An Anecdote. 

ABOUT this time we notice in the letters mention of a member 
of Mr. Stephens s household who can never be overlooked by his 
biographer. Some time before this he had received as a present 
a very large and fine white poodle, named Rio, a dog of unusual 
intelligence and affection, to whom he became very strongly 
attached. While Mr. Stephens was in Washington, Rio stayed 
with Linton at Sparta until his master returned. Mr. Stephens 
would usually come on during the session of Greene County 
court, where Linton would meet him, having Rio with him in 
his buggy, and the dog would then return with his master. 
When this had happened once or twice, the dog learned to 
expect him on these occasions. The cars usually arrived at 
about nine o clock at night. During the evening Rio would 
be extremely restless, and at the first sound of the approaching 
train he would rush from the hotel to the depot, and in a few 
seconds would know whether his master was on the train or not, 
for he would search for him through all the cars. He was well 
known to the conductors, and if the train happened to start 
before Rio had finished his search, they would stop to let him get 
out. But when his search was successful, his raptures of joy 
at seeing his master again were really affecting. His intelligence 
was so great that he seemed to understand whatever was said to 
him ; at a word he would shut a door as gently as a careful 
servant might have done, or would bring a cane, hat, or um 
brella. He always slept in his master s room, which he scarcely 
left during Mr. Stephens s attacks of illness. In a word, Mr. 
Stephens found in him a companion of almost human intelli 
gence, and of unbounded affection and fidelity, and the tie 
between the man and the dog was strong and enduring. In 

201 



262 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

one of the first letters of the new year (1851), Mr. Stephens 
mentions a dream he has had about Rio, and expresses a fear 
that some harm may have befallen him. 

January 23d. He has dined at the President s, with a very 
agreeable party. 

" I was the first to leave, and as I came to where the hats and cloaks 
were, the Irish Paddy whom you know, the porter, said to me, with all 
the nonchalance imaginable, as he waved his hand toward the hats and 
cloaks, "Well, I think you can get a purty good one to-night. . . . Oh 
that- 1 were with, you and llio ! I fear you do not feed Rio well enough. 
... I would not give one week at home, no, not one night with you 
and Rio, for all the pleasures I enjoy here in a month." 

February 3d. A letter from Linton has referred to some 
business matters, which, though not very momentous, have an 
noyed him considerably. After discussing these, he continues : 

" After reading your letter I relapsed more profoundly into a musing 
mood in which I was indulging when it was handed me, and to break that 
spell is the only object I haVe in writing. ^Thought often settles upon me 
like a nightmare, .and as in the case of nightmare, action is necessary to 
break it, so in troubles and mental anxieties I have often found relief in 
nothing but action of some sort] This world is a strange place, and man s 
life is but a dreamy pilgrimage through an inhospitable clime. His path 
is over mountains and in deep and dark valleys, through bogs and morasses, 
beset on all sides not only by brambles and thorns, but by gnats, flies, 
mosquitoes, stinging insects, and venomous reptiles. Occasionally he 
comes to an open space where the light of heaven seems to smile with 
benignant rays upon the prospect around him, and where he may pluck a 
violet or a rose. But ere the flower withers in his hands, the summons of 
destiny bids him onward to encounter new dangers and new annoyances. 

" Sometimes I have thought that of all men I was most miserable; that 
I was especially doomed to misfortune, to melancholy, to grief; that my 
pathway of life not only led over the same mountains, heaths, and deserts 
with others, but that an evil genius was my inseparable companion, fol 
lowing at my side, forever mocking and grinning, and making those places 
which in the lives of others are most pleasant, to me most miserable. If 
on the way I but no, it is useless. The misery, the deep agony of spirit 
I have suffered, no mortal knows nor ever will. The torture of body is 
severe; I have had my share of that, rheumatism, neuralgia, headache, 
toothache, fever, and most maladies flesh is heir to. But all these are 
slight when compared with the pangs of an offended or wounded spirit. 
The heart alone knoweth its own sorrow. I have borne it these many 
years. I have borne it all my life. . . . 



LIFE OF ALEX AM) El! //. * / /: / ///: .VS. 263 



"I am tempted to tell you a secret. It is the secret of my life. I 
never told it to any one. But I will toll it to you, and I fear you will not 
believe it. But it is true; and if you nev<T Misperted it, that shows how 
true I have been to myself in keeping it. 

"The si-i-ivr of my lif^ ha-i \>^\\ -rn enge. reversed. That is, to ri-e 
superior to the TU irh-rt or contumely of the mean of mankind, by doim 
tin-in good instead of harm. A determination to war even against fate ; 
to meet the world irratl" its forces ; to master evil with good, and to leave 
no foe standing in my rear. My greatest courage has been drawn from 
my deepest despair ; and the greatest efforts of my life have been the fruits 
of a determination, a firm resolve, excited by so slight a thing as a look. 
This feeling, this principle, call it what you will, is the mainspring of 
my action. When I have looked upon the world and seen it filled with 
knaves and fools, and have seen in the whole waste not one well of water 
from which I could draw a drop to slake my thirsting, parched soul, with 
all hopes blighted : when I have been ready to lie down and die under the 
weight of that grief which is greater than all other griefs. 

A young heart desolate 
In the wide world, 

I have often had my whole soul instantly aroused with the fury of a lion 
and the ambition of a Caesar by, I repeat, as slight a thing as a look! 
What have I not suffered from a look ! what have I not suffered from the 
tone of a remark, from a sense of neglect, from a supposed injury, an 
intended injury ! But every such pang was the friction that brought out 
the latent fires. My spirit of warring against the world, however, never 
had in it anything of a desire to crush or trample ; no, only a desire to get 
above them, to excel them, to enjoy the gratification of seeing them feel 
that they were wrong; to compel their admiration. . . . This is the extent 
of my ambition ; this the length, breadth, and depth of my revenge. It 
has in it nothing low or mean, for it is to triumph over the base that it 
stimulates me to action. To be really sweet it must be essentially pure, 
pure in principle, and pure in exertion. 

" But wliat poof consolation is this ! What short-lived pleasures attend 
victory thus attained ! Sometimes my evil genius, like Job s comforters, 
jeers and taunts my human kindness, casts scorn upon my good nature, bids 
me turn cynic and man-hater, an Ishmaelite, bids me raise my hand 
against every man as every man s hand is raised against me. Oh, the 
fiendish genius of the tempting imp! I shall take none of his counsels. 

" Now you may think that I am somewhat moody to-night, to be in 
dulging in such a strain. No; not more than usual. It is true, I was 
musing when I got your letter, thinking over many things that have 
annoyed and pained me excessively, small things, it is true; but things 
that sent their sting to the soul, to the very quick of life, and your letter 
added some fuel to the flame. But still I am not in what I sometimes call 
a melancholy mood." 



2G4 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 

The reader, remembering the trust and confidence that had 
been placed by his fellow-citizens in Mr. Stephens, shown by 
their placing him in high public office, and remembering also 
that he was in a position where he could give full scope to all 
his powers, and exercise no small influence on the destinies of 
the country, will consider such utterances as these as the mere 
moodiness of hypochondria. That they are so in part cannot 
be denied ; bnt, as he says, no one knows or can know all that 
he has suffered. There is one surviving friend to whom he has 
confided more of his inner life than to any other, and he has 
been filled with sympathy at the revelation of strange sufferings, 
and with admiration at the fortitude with which they were en 
dured. Endured and concealed ; for at this time it was only 
to his beloved brother that he lifted up even a corner of the veil. 

In the summer of 1869, while in conversation with his 
friend, he alluded to this letter, and criticised the use of the 
phrase " revenge reversed." " It was not," he said, u the right 
word ; but I could not find a better/ 

At the close of the session Mr. Stephens returned to Georgia, 
where he spent the rest of the year. In the summer the politi 
cal campaign, in the Southern States, opened on the action of 
Congress in regard to the Territories. The leading men of South 
Carolina, generally, and many of those of other States, favored 
secession from the Union. Mr. Stephens, and most of the lead 
ing men of his State, advised against separation, and this, with 
his views on the subject of the admission of California, drew 
upon him much hostility in South Carolina. His course in this 
matter was determined, not by any doubt of the right, but by a 
conviction of the inexpediency of its exercise. He had inti 
mately studied the characters of the leading Southern statesmen, 
and he feared there was not a sufficient weight of steadfast un 
selfish patriotism and personal virtue to carry through such a 
movement successfully. He foresaw that secession meant war, 
and a war that would demand patriotism of a lofty, pure, and 
enduring character to conduct it successfully, as well as a una 
nimity in sentiment and policy such as could scarcely be hoped 
for. And he still cherished the hope that wiser counsels might 
prevail; that the North would render, if not complete justice to 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 265 

the South, at least such partial justice as would render a con 
tinuation in the Union preferable to separation. One of his 
present biographers has heard him say that if his whole section 
in 1851 had been unanimous in feeling, and he had felt any 
assurance that among the men who would have been the leaders 
of a new confederation were to be found the requisite patriotism, 
virtue, and statesmanship to carry the new body politic through 
all the perils and trials that would attend its birth, he would have 
counselled such resistance as would either have secured equality 
under the Constitution or have ended in disruption. As it was, 
he opposed the policy of secession, and in conjunction with Mr. 
Toombs and Howell Cobb easily carried the State. The Con 
stitutional Union party was formed, on the platform of the 
Georgia Resolutions of 1850, and Mr. Cobb was elected Gov 
ernor by a heavy majority. Mr. Stephens was re-elected to the 
House, and went on to Washington at the opening of the session 
in December. 

There are but few letters during this year. On October 26th 
we find a very long one written from Lagrange. In it he tells an 
anecdote related by a Mr. William Campbell, at whose house at 
Atlanta Mr. Stephens spent an evening. He had been travelling 
on the cars a day or two before, and this was what happened : 

" William said that a man got off the cars at and ran out on the 

platform, and cried out, Aleck Stephens is on the cars ! whereupon a 
number of persons came out and gazed about, and looked in. One old 
man came up and asked him if he knew me. Will said yes. Is he on 
the cars? Yes. Where is he? I want to see him, said the old man. 
If you want to see him you must be in a hurry, for the cars will start in 
a moment. Oh, I just want to look at him; I never saw him; point 
him out to me ; that will do. William then led him forward to the bag 
gage-car, where I was sitting smoking, looking out on the other side. 
4 That is he, said William. The old man raised his hands, exclaiming, 
Good Lord ! William told us of several other similar scenes on the road 
the same day, how persons got him to point me out. But they all laughed 
heartily at the exclamation of the old man. so great was his disappointment. 

" I added to their glee by telling them that the old fellow was like a 
man I met, in Cherokee in 1843, who came up to me after I had spoken, 
and said,^ Well, if I had been put in the road to shoot a smart man, you 
would have passed safe, sure n At this which was strictly true they 
all laughed more heartily, I believe, than at William s story. For they 
then seemed to laugh with a liberty, I had given them a license to laugh." 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

Louis Kossuth Speech in Baltimore Marriage of Linton Demoraliza 
tion of the Whig Party A Card A Vote for a Dead Candidate Ad 
dress at Emory College Reminiscences of Childhood A Sad Year 
The Galphin Claim Mr. Stephens s Speech on the Bill to Prevent 
Frauds Severe Accident to Mr. Stephens Sickness Two Humble 
Friends. 

WE have but few letters for the year 1852. The earliest, 
dated January 4th, contains allusions to the arrival of the Hun 
garian orator Kossuth, whose eloquent appeals in behalf of 
Hungary excited an extravagant and inconsiderate enthusiasm 
in the public, which Mr. Stephens feared might influence Con 
gress to take some step that would compromise our foreign rela 
tions. There was a contest for two or three days in Congress 
over a resolution tendering him a complimentary reception in 
the House, the majority trying to suspend the Rules in order to 
pass it; but this was successfully resisted by the minority, of 
whom Mr. Stephens was one. 

Being invited to deliver an address to the people of Baltimore 
on Washington s Birthday, he took occasion to warn the public 
that in their generous sympathy for a foreign people they must 
not forget the principles of justice and sound policy. After 
showing the relations which the States bore to each other in the 
Union, what that Union was, and the advantages which had 
flowed and would still flow from it if the Constitution were 
faithfully observed and its essential principles kept ever in view, 
he then warned them of the perils which would attend any 
interference with foreign politics, or entangling alliances with 
foreign nations, and solemnly enforced his warnings with the 
wise words of Washington. 

"For the honor of Americans," he continues, "be it spoken that the 
first attempt to arraign the wisdom of Washington on this question of our 
266 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 267 

foreign policy was made by a foreigner. Would that I could say that no 
American had yielded to the insidious wiles of his influence ! But the 
virus has taken effect; it is spreading through the land ; and we now hear 
it openly proclaimed in many places that it is time for us to assume our 
position among the nations of the earth ; that it is time we had a foreign 
policy. What does this language mean? Is it intended by those who use 
it to convey the idea that we have gone on for upward of sixty years in a 
career of prosperity never before equalled without any foreign policy? 
Was not the rule laid down by Washington, and acted on by every Presi 
dent from his day to this, a policy? It was a policy. It was and is the 
policy of attending to our own business and letting other nations alone. 
It was and is the policy, the time-honored policy, of non-intervention. It 
may not be a foreign policy, but it is a Washington policy ; by an observ 
ance of which we have come to be what we are, one of the first nations 
of the earth. Are we to be told that it is now time for us to assume a 
place among the powers of the world? Did not our forefathers do that 
when they compelled Great Britain, in 1783, to acknowledge our sover 
eignty and independence? Had we no position among the great nations 
when France sought our alliance in 1795 and 1796, which overture was 
rejected? Had we no position in 1812, when we again met in combat our 
old enemy, and the most formidable foe in the world ? Had we no posi 
tion when British fleets were driven from our seas, and her invading 
armies were cut down and beaten back from our shores? Were the heroic 
deeds of our naval officers, to whose memory a marble monument has been 
erected on the Capitol grounds, performed before we had sufficient power 
to be felt? Was the gallant and daring defence of your own city, which 
you have put in monumental remembrance on your own public square, all 
done without a foreign policy, and before we were enabled to take a place 
among the nations of the earth? Be not deceived, my fellow-countrymen : 
we have had a policy from the beginning. It is a good policy ; it has 
worked well. Let us adhere to it." 

On the 2d of February, Linton Stephens married Mrs. Emme- 
line Bell, daughter of James Thomas, Esq., of Hancock County. 
Alexander paid the newly-married couple a visit early in May. 
After this there is a slight, a very slight, yet sensible difference 
in the tone of the letters. The marriage was a judicious and 
happy one, and had his entire approval, yet he could not but 
feel that there was a change in their relations. Linton was, 
now as always, the first and the only one to him, but he was not 
now the first to Linton. He does not now unbosom himself 
with the former unreserved ness: he writes about history, litera 
ture, and general topics. In his letter of May 13th he goes into 
a long argument about the letters of Junius, in which he disputes 



268 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

the Franciscan theory.* In another of the same month he 
dwells on the practice of the law. He says, among other things, 
" I consider that almost any just case may be gained by mas 
terly management. Always when I lose a case I feel that I 
failed in some point that I ought to have been better prepared 
on. Hence I always think a great deal about my lost cases. I 
brood over them as Hannibal may have brooded over his worst 
defeats." 

The summer and fall of this year he spent at home. He took 
but little interest in the Presidential election. We have seen 
that he had never been in thorough accord with the Whig party, 
but had generally acted with it simply because he preferred its 
policy, on the whole, to that of the Democrats. The Slavery 
question had now entirely demoralized the Northern Whig party, 
and he had not enough confidence in the Democratic party to 
unite with them. Between Pierce and Scott, therefore, he had 
but little choice. A card was published in Washington, on July 
3d, drawn up by Mr. Stephens, and bearing the signatures of a 
number of leading Southern Whigs, giving their reasons for not 
supporting General Scott. Daniel Webster was the man of his 
choice, and though he died before the election, many of his ad 
mirers, including Mr. Stephens, voted, after his death, the elec 
toral ticket bearing his name, in the spirit in which the garrison 
of Chateauneuf laid the keys of their stronghold upon the coffin 
of Bertrand du Guesclin. 

On July 21st he delivered by invitation an address before the 
literary societies of Emory College, Georgia, in which he set 
forth the principles which should guide young men in their 
career through life, and especially in their struggles for dis 
tinction and success. This speech won him new honors in an 
entirely new field. 

As usual, he marks the last day of the year by a letter, a 
melancholy one, full of sad memories. 

December 31st. ..." How time flies, and how the years pass by us ! 
I well remember the first letter I ever wrote. It was in 1826. It was, I 

* This view he afterwards elaborated in an Address before the Literary 
Societies of the University of Georgia, on August 4th, 1873, and subse 
quently in the International Review of September-October, 1877. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 269 

think, the second Sunday after I went to my new home upon the break- 
ing-up of our little family-circle on the death of father and ma. Its date 
therefore, I think, was May 28th, 1826. The letter was written to Uncle 
James Stephens, of Pennsylvania, giving him an account of our affliction. 
The day and its incidents I shall never forget. Uncle Aaron had gone to 
meeting. . . . Brother Aaron Grier and I were both writing letters. The 
day was clear, calm, and warm. We had a table in the middle of the big 
room. It was some time before we could get a pen a-piece. I need not 
tell you that at that time no such thing as a pen of any kind but a goose- 
quill was ever heard of, in those parts, at least. Our inkstand was a little 
leather-covered phial that Uncle Aaron used to take with him when he 
went from home : in this phial was some cotton that held the ink ; and the 
pen was filled by pressing it against the saturated cotton. ... I wish I 
could see that letter now. I was all day at it. When Uncle Aaron came 
home, he looked over both letters and made some corrections, and then we 
had them to write over again. . . . This was my first letter. It was the 
utterance of the bitterest grief. As children come into the world crying, 
so my first effort of speech through the medium of writing was to make 
known by such signs as I could command the almost unutterable emotions 
of a wounded spirit. The body is better off in this respect than the soul : 
the body can weep and cry 5 its pains have a natural outlet. But the 
afflicted soul has no voice ; it cannot cry : it has no tears ; it cannot weep. 
This I have often felt, but never so keenly and oppressively as at the death 
of father. Could my suffering spirit then have given one shriek, it seemed 
to me that it would have afforded some relief. . . . But there are no words 
that can convey any idea of the agonies with which I was tortured. . . . 
But where am I wandering to ? When I began this epistle I had no idea 
of saying all this about my first letter. 

" But an old year never goes out without receiving from me a melancholy 
farewell. I am in the mood of mind to-day well suited for such a leave- 
taking. I am confined to my room, half sick, and lonely. I am sitting 
up, but feel weak and giddy, and should fall or faint if I were to attempt 
to walk or stand long." 

All the letters of this year are characterized by this tone of 
sadness. Perhaps he would not have acknowledged it to him 
self, but we can see that his brother s marriage has had its inevi 
table effect upon him. It was a happy marriage ; he approved 
it, was glad of it for his brother s sake, sent cordial messages of 
affection to the new-married pair; yet his loneliness has been 
made the deeper by it ; his life, unblest in so many ways, has 
had an added shade of sadness. The one nearest and dearest to 
him has chosen a nearer and dearer, and to some extent is lost 
to him ; and though he knows not why it is, we can understand 



270 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

why his memory went back to that early and first loss of his 
nearest and dearest twenty-six years before. 

A matter which excited considerable interest at this time was 
the " Galphin claim," to which some allusion has already been 
made, and in the debates on which, in the House, Mr. Stephens 
took a leading part. It is now well-nigh forgotten, but the 
facts, in brief, were these : 

In 1773 the Cherokee Indians in the colony of Georgia, find 
ing themselves in debt, made a treaty, by which they agreed to 
cede two million five hundred thousand acres of land to the 
Crown of Great Britain, for which the Crown was to assume and 
satisfy the debt. One of the creditors was George Galphin, 
whose claim, to the amount of 9791 15s. 5cL, was certified 
by the commissioners in 1775. The Revolution then broke out, 
and the State of Georgia took possession of the lands and gave 
them as a bounty to soldiers. In 1780 the State passed an act 
binding herself to pay all those Indian claimants who had been 
true to their country in the war the full amount awarded by the 
commissioners, with interest at six per cent, per annum. Gal- 
phin s patriotism was not denied ; but for want of money the 
debt, though several times brought before the Legislature by his 
son, was not paid. 

Now in 1790, the Federal Government passed an act assum 
ing the indebtedness which each State had incurred for purposes 
of defence during the War of Independence, and Georgia finally 
referred the claim of Galphin to the Federal Legislature. Many 
delays occurred in the various stages of legislation; but, in 1847, 
a committee of the Senate reported that the claim was just, and 
the bill authorizing its payment passed that body. In the next 
year it passed the House : the principal was paid at once, and the 
interest, a much larger sum, was settled some time after. For 
political purposes reports were spread about that this claim was 
a gigantic swindle, that persons high in office were parties to it ; 
and for a while the cry of " Galphinism," as indicating any 
monstrous and disgraceful fraud upon the Treasury, had con 
siderable effect. In particular, some plausibility was given to 
the charge by the fact that Mr. Crawford, at the time Secretary 
of War, received a large sum from this claim. But his perfectly 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 271 

legitimate interest in the matter long antedated his secretaryship; 
the claim was not adjusted in his department; and it was allowed 
by the Attorney-General and paid by the Secretary of the 
Treasury without either of them knowing that Mr. Crawford 
had an interest in it. Mr. Stephens, in his speech of January 
13th, 1853, on the Bill to prevent Frauds on the Treasury of 
the United States, set the whole transaction in its true light, 
after which no more was heard of Galphinism. 

The following extract will show the spirit of this speech : 

11 1 am here to resist all party clamor that may be brought against this 
claim. What I have said 5/ I have stated for the House and the country. 
The facts, as I have stated, are uncontroverted in the past, and will remain 
incontrovertible for all time to come ; and I defy their controversies here 
or anywhere. 

" I suppose that many of these expressions, such as Galphinism, are 
engendered by party heat, emanate from partisan feeling, and are used 
without any distinct idea of what is meant by them. But I say that the 
character of every man should be defended by those who love truth and 
justice. The character of the humblest, alike with the character of the 
highest, shall, at all times, receive defence from me when I can defend it. 
I care not if the name of the wrongful accusers is Legion, I will face them 
all, if necessary. I do not care to join with the shouting multitude merely 
because they are strong in numbers. I do not fancy the taste of those 
who play upon expressions because they catch the popular cant or whim 
of the day. It is an easy matter to pander to the passions or prejudices 
of the uninformed. 

" Sir, this is the facilis descensus Averni, the downward road of the 
demagogue. It is easy to travel it, and, to some, it seems to be a pleasant 
jaunt; but to vindicate the truth, to stand up for the right against the 
majority, hoc opus, Me labor est. I shall do it, or attempt to do it, sir, 
though I be a minority of one." 

Linton, after his marriage, removed to Sparta. We find Alex 
ander writing to him in May from Crawfordville : 

" If it were not for you, it seems that this wide world would be a perfect 
desert to me. Among the millions who inhabit it, no other congenial 
spirit is found with whom I can hold full communion of thought. . . . 
Perhaps you may think I am low-spirited. Perhaps it is so. Have I not 
enough to make me so? But I assure you that I do not feel depressed. 
I have an elasticity of soul which seems to bear me up even in the midst 
of the greatest troubles of mind and body." 

On the 9th of June of this year (1853) Mr. Stephens met 



272 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

with a very severe accident, which came near being a fatal one. 
He was on his way to Macon, when the train by which he was 
travelling was thrown from the track and wrecked. His right 
shoulder blade was broken, his left elbow crushed, and his head 
very badly cut, so that for a while it was thought that his skull 
had been fractured. This injury kept him in the house all the 
summer. 

On July 6th, after disquisitions on the weather in his letter 
to Linton, we have some talk about his dog Rio, to whom he 
seems to turn, in his solitude, for companionship. 

" In all my strolls from one room to another I have a constant com 
panion, it is none other than llio. The dog never stuck so close to me in 
his life. He sleeps at my feet in the day, and at night, before I go up 
stairs to bed. Last week when it was so hot, he got into a way of starting 
with me, but when I mounted the first step of the stairs he would throw 
himself at the foot of it with a grunt, and remain there for an hour or so, 
and then come up and see that I was in bed, when he would return to the 
cool place. During the night he would repeat his visit several times. He 
seemed to think that by his sleeping at the foot of the steps I could not 
get out without his knowing it. ... But, notwithstanding many praise 
worthy traits, he has a good deal of the dog about him. To-day he de 
liberately took a bone away from Edmund s dog, Watch, and ate it up. 
That, I thought, was a downright doggish trick. I tried to make him feel 
mean about it; but he did not seem to comprehend me at all." 

We find several letters written during the summer and fall ; 
but none of special interest. He took an active part in the 
canvass for Governor. The Constitutional Union movement of 
1850, of which he had been the leader, lasted but two years, and 
in 1853 the Whigs and Democrats relapsed into their old antago 
nism. Mr. Jenkins* came forward, however, as the candidate of 
this party, and with Mr. Stephens, Mr. Toombs, and others tried 
to keep up the organization. But the Democrats, with Herschel 
Y. Johnson as their candidate for Governor, fell back upon their 
old platform. The contest was warm and close, resulting in the 
election of Mr. Johnson by a majority of about five hundred votes. 
Mr. Stephens had been very anxious that the old party issues 



* Hon. Charles J. Jenkins, afterwards Judge of the Supreme Court and 
Governor. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 273 

shoulcl.be abandoned, and that Southern men should stand united 
upon the Georgia platform of 1853 ; and when the union formed 
upon this basis showed so little cohesion and permanence, he lost 
still more of the little confidence he had in the ability of the 
South to hold her own amid the perils and trials that were 
gathering thickly and in many forms about her. 

In the fall of this year he had a very severe attack of illness, 
resembling in its symptoms that of 1842, and like that it re 
sulted in an abscess of the liver, which discharged itself through 
the lungs. Although relief followed, the prostration resulting 
was so great that he was not able to leave his room during all 
the latter part of 1853 and January, 1854. 

On December 22d he writes from Washington : 

" I have been very sick since I wrote to you last. That night Mon 
day I was taken with high fever, ending in an attack which I call colic. 
Tuesday 1 suffered greatly, but got easy about three o clock. Last night 
I had a return of high, burning fever, which lasted all night, and is not 
off now, at two P.M. My pulse is 100. I am taking quinine, and am sitting 
up, though perhaps I ought to be in bed, but I have some letters that I 
must answer. When I shall write to you again I do not know. I am 
now getting too sick to proceed. I will keep you advised of my condition 
by others, if I cannot write myself. I am going to have a serious attack, 
I feel assured of that. Withal, my lungs are badly affected, though I think 
only sympathetically." 

The 24th he feels somewhat better, and writes more cheer 
fully ; and on Christmas, which is Sunday, writes again : 

"A bright, joyous-looking day without. I am sitting up a little to 
have my bed made, while enjoying the cheerful light from my window. 
How delicious is pure light ! It falls upon the senses like pure water 
upon the body. It invigorates and vivifies. I don t wonder at Milton s 
apostrophe to light. 

After mentioning the gravity of his symptoms, and particu 
larly the exhausting effects of night-sweats, he adds : 

" There is one thing, however, that I wish to impress upon you. and 
that is an earnest desire that you shall not permit yourself to become 
uneasy on my account, or suppose that I suffer from any apprehension. 
I had more uneasiness when I felt the first touch of the disease than now. 
I have grown used to confinement, used to my room, feel no restlessness 
to be out, and am prepared to get along in the best way I can, without 

18 



274 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

any heavy care about it. Patience is a great virtue, some one has 
said. If this be true, I have at least one great virtue." 

On the 28th he writes that he feels better. Has had two 
letters from Linton, in which mention is made of a Christmas 
visit paid to the latter by his brother s servant Bob, with his 
wife and children. In the answer he says much about Bob, 
part of which we extract to show the relations that subsisted 
between him and his servants, and his consideration for them. 

" And poor Bob ! he went over in the sleet and snow with his wife and 
little ones. I fear the exposure will make some of them sick. By the 
way, Bob was not obnoxious to your apprehension that he had made too 
free with the mules and buggy. He had my permission to make you the 
visit, before I left. It was a darling visit to Bob. It had been- near his 
heart all summer. I suspect he enjoyed it right well, if the simple- 
hearted, good-natured fellow did not get drunk ! 

" Bob, with all his faults, has many excellent traits of character, and 
some substantial virtues. He is honest, faithful, and truthful. Just 
before I left home, he came up to town on Sunday, and stayed with me all 
day. J was sitting in the front parlor alone, reading, when he came and 
sat or the steps. He began to talk in a very serious mood about my 
leaving home. I turned the subject to a religious talk. I asked him 
if he ever thought what would become of him if he should die. He said 
yes : that subject occupied more of his mind every day than all other 
things put together. I asked him if he ever prayed. He said he tried 
to pray. . . . Towards sundown I walked down to the back lot to take 
some exercise, and Bob went with me. He, Rio, and I were the trio. 
We looked at some young pigs, then walked through the apple-orchard, 
peach-orchard, and potato-patch, back to the house, Bob still talking and 
forgetting to go home. But about sundown he rose with, AYell, this 
won t do for me; I must be gwine. Good-by, Mass Ellick. This ended 
the last evening I ever had the pleasure of spending with Bob." 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

New Tactics of the Agitators The Personal Liberty Bills The Pledges of 
1850 to be broken Speech of February 17th The Nebraska Bill The 
Kansas War Death of Mrs. Ray A Georgia Corn-Shucking A Visit 
from " Uncle Ben" Speech of December 14th Christmas-Eve The 
Know-Nothing Party. 

THE quietude produced by the Compromise of 1850 was, as 
might have been expected with such political elements in the 
country, of no long endurance. The party of agitation, to whom 
the abolition movement was not an end, but a means to gain their 
political objects, were not likely to forego the most powerful 
instrument in their reach for fostering that dissension upon which 
all their schemes depended. They simply changed their tactics 
and their point of attack. As for the time being they could 
effect nothing in Congress, they turned their efforts to inflame the 
popular mind and influence the local elections. The point they 
selected for their operation was the Fugitive Slave Law, a pro 
vision for the return of fugitives from service who had escaped 
into other States. 

In their agitation on this subject they were not only so suc 
cessful as to make the capture and return of a fugitive almost 
impossible, the attempt, though made by the United States mar 
shal, being almost invariably resisted by a mob, but they induced 
several of the Northern States to go much further in the path 
of nullification than South Carolina had gone, whose Ordinance 
had never been put into execution. These States passed acts, 
called Personal Liberty Bills, which rendered void the act of 
Congress within their limits, by interposing the action of the 
State courts. The decision by the Supreme Court of the United 
States that the act was constitutional, and that the States were 
bound to carry it out, was met by denunciations of the court, 
and of the Constitution, which, in the quasi-religious phraseology 
which the agitators affected, was called " a covenant with Hell." 

275 



27-6 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

The subject came up in Congress again at the end of 1853 
and the beginning of 1854. A portion of the land ceded by 
Louisiana, and not covered by the bills providing for Utah and 
New Mexico, was now in a condition to demand a Territorial 
"government; and on the 4th of January Mr. Douglas reported 
a bill in the Senate, providing for the organization of a govern 
ment for Nebraska, in which he carefully adhered to the principle 
and language of the Compromise of 1850. This was the signal 
for a recommencement of the agitation. The agitators, with Mr. 
Sumner at their head, declared their intention to break through 
the Compromise of 1850, and renew to this Territory the old 
Missouri restriction, which they now extolled as a "solemn com 
pact" which had been broken by perfidy ; though they themselves, 
as we have shown, had broken it almost as soon as it Avas made. 

On the 17th of February, while this Nebraska Bill was still 
pending, Mr. Stephens addressed the House on the subject. He 
took issue with those who asserted that the Missouri Compromise 
was a " solemn compact," and showed, moreover, that even if 
it was a compact, those who were now proclaiming its sacred- 
ness were those who broke it. He reviewed the history of the 
slavery agitation, and the respective positions of the two sections, 
and of the Whig and Democratic parties, closing with an elo 
quent appeal in favor of constitutional justice as the only basis on 
which the happiness, peace, and prosperity of the country could 
be built up. This speech, one of the most powerful he ever 
delivered, will be found in the Appendix.* What renders it 
more remarkable is the fact that the day before its delivery Mr. 
Stephens had, for the first time in two months, been able to leave 
his room, and his appearance, as described by eye-witnesses, was 
that of an animated corpse with flaming eyes. 

On May 9th, Mr. Stephens writes from Washington : 

" We took up the Nebraska question yesterday by twenty-one majority, 
and will take a final vote on it this week. I think it will pass ; but the 
vote will be closer on the final test than it was yesterday. We are on the 
eve of a great issue with Cuba. England and France have set their heads 
against the policy of that island toward us. We must and will have it; 

* Appendix A. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS., 277 

and we cannot permit them to go on with their policy of filling it with 
Africans." 

May llth. " We have had no vote on Nebraska yet. How long we 
shall be occupied with preliminary questions I cannot tell ; but if I had 
my way, not one minute. I want to move to strike out the enacting clause, 
which will cut off amendments. The friends of the bill could carry this 
motion ; then the Committee would rise, the House would disagree to their 
report and pass the bill under the previous question, if we have the 
majority. That is my plan of tactics ; but I have not yet got the leaders 
to agree to it. I am getting tired of their vacillating, timid, foolish policy. 
... I am getting chafed in spirit at the thought of following the lead of 
such men. I am growing insubordinate, and losing my self-respect. If 
I had not come here, I verily believe that they would not have got the 
question up -" [The remainder of this letter has been lost.] 

May 23d. " Nebraska is through the House, majority thirteen. Eight 
Southern men in the negative ; all Whigs except Benton. I took the reins 
in my hand, applied whip and spur, and brought the wagon out at eleven 
o clock P.M. Glory enough for one day. I will soon send you some inci 
dents of the fight." 

The passage of the Nebraska Bill which included a provision 
for the formation of a Territorial government in Kansas also 
again changed the tactics of the party of agitation. Framed in 
accordance with the policy of the Compromise of 1850, it opened 
these Territories to settlers from all the States, and to their 
property, without restriction on the subject of slavery ; and 
allowed the settlers to regulate their own affairs, with no other 
limitations than those prescribed by the Constitution. The 
agitators began at once to organize " Emigrant Aid Societies" in 
the North, for the purpose of sending out bands of armed men, 
not peaceable emigrants, whose object was, not to settle and culti 
vate the soil, but to get the power into their hands, by violence 
and intimidation, if necessary. Resistance was offered, of course, 
and the series of disturbances known as the " Kansas War" 
followed. 

We have no letters now until June 6th. Mr. Stephens has been 
at home for a few days, and is about returning to Washington. 

"Yesterday I spent down on the plantation. I walked all over the old 
place, solitary and alone. With feelings of deep sadness I surveyed many 
a spot sacred in memory. . . . Harry will take this on to you to-morrow, 
and will also take Rio. Poor dog ! he has stuck to me this time as close 
as a brother." 



278 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

June 15th. He writes from Washington : 

" The public news here is of little importance. The Administration is 
vacillating about Cuba. I do not now believe that they intend to do any 
thing favoring the acquisition, and I doubt if they have the nerve to make 
the treaty with Dominica. They are not worth shucks." 

In this month he was afflicted by the loss of Mrs. Thomas 
Ray, " Cousin Sabra," a lady very dear to him, of whom we 
have had several notices in the account of his early years. She 
was a woman of very exemplary character, much beloved by the 
small circle who knew her. Mr. Stephens, who was keenly 
sensitive to every loss of this kind, mourned her long and deeply. 
He writes from Crawfordville on July 6th : 

" I have not yet been to my plantation. I scarcely know how I can go 
there. It seems my heart would fail me. The last day I was there I went 
all over the place, to the grave-yard, where I spent some time in lonely 
musing. Little did I then think that another one so dear to me was so 
soon to be laid away in that quiet repository of the dead." 

Several letters in August refer to the death of his brother s 
infant daughter, and are full of sympathy and consolation. In 
the fall the correspondence assumes a more cheerful tone, though 
he was troubled with an attack of intermittent fever. On 
October 27th he writes : 

. . . "Last night I had a corn-shucking. About thirty or forty negroes 
assembled, shucked out all the pile, and after that, according to custom, 
claimed the right of carrying me, the boss, about over the yard and through 
the house, singing and cutting all sorts of capers. I thought discretion 
was the better part of valor, and did not resist the toting custom. The- 
sport seemed to amuse the negroes very much, and when they had got 
their hands in with me, they took brother John and John Tilly and car 
ried them both through the rocking and tossing process. This sport, as 
you may know, is like that which Sancho Pansa fell in with once. They 
put their victim in a chair, and then swing him to and fro in the air 
as high as their long arms will permit." 

Rio came upon the scene during these extraordinary proceed 
ings. " Poor fellow, he could not understand it, and was for a 
fight; but the odds were too great against him." The frolic 
closes with a grand supper. These old-time corn-huskings 
and other harmless merry-makings in which the negroes took 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 279 

such delight are now things of the past. With their new-found 
liberty they seem to have lost the faculty of innocent enjoyment. 
Displaced from a position for which they were especially fitted 
by nature, they have not yet become adapted to the new order 
of things, and will probably be, for a generation at least, a 
grotesque and unhappy solecism in society. 

Next month Mr. Stephens, though still sick, went to Colum 
bus to try a case in the court then in session, and was taken 
much worse. This has been an unfortunate case for him, and 
this is the third time he has gone to Columbus to try it. The 
first time the clerk of the court died; the second time the cars 
ran off the track, as we have seen, and he was badly hurt ; and 
now he is stricken down with the dysentery. Happily, the 
severity of the attack was not of long duration. 

November 16th. Linton has been writing with some indigna 
tion of the behavior of a certain preacher, and his brother gives 
him a caution. 

11 1 beg you not to let such conduct have an evil influence upon your 
mind. I have been in just such a condition as you describe, and I came 
near being shipwrecked in religious feeling once by the impertinence 
of just such a man. . . . Cultivate your religious feelings. Be humble in 
spirit and look to heaven for guidance. Don t suffer yourself to become 
cold on this subject. I feel as if I should not live long, and I assure you 
that the older I get, the greater is my submission to the will of my 
heavenly Father. The life of a religious man is beautiful to contemplate, 
and his end is one that angels might envy." 

November 24th. " Uncle Ben," an old family negro servant, 
is paying him a visit. 

" I saw Ben at the plantation to-day. lie looked sad. He had been all 
over the old stamping- and hunting-grounds. In vain had he looked for 
the old persimmon-tree. Perkins (the former owner) had cut it down. 
Ben cried when he talked about the grave-yard to-day. lie said, When 
Missis planted that cedar-tree at the children s graves, she told me if I 
should live the longest to take care of it ; but many has been the year 
since I saw it. When I went to Upson County it was a little bit of a 
bush 5 now it looks like an old tree. Mass Grier planted the poplar. He 
just cut a twig and stuck it in the ground, and it grew. Now the tree has 
grown up, lived out its life, and is dead. I almost cried to hear Ben talk." 

November 26th. Another visit to the plantation with Ben. 



280 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

. . . "When I got to the grave-yard I found Ben, as Old Mortality, 
gazing on brother s tombstone trying to read the inscription. We re 
mained about the sacred spot for some time. When we were about start 
ing he said with tears in his eyes and faltering voice that he wanted me 
to get Mass John to let him come back and stay on the old place. He 
wanted to live there the rest of his life, and when he died to be buried with 
the rest. I answered that I would see about it." 

He did see about it, and Uncle Ben had his wish granted. 
Mr. Stephens returned to Washington on the 1st of December. 
On the 4th he writes : 

11 Congress met to-day. Everything is flat. Nobody cared a cent for 
the Message or anything else. I don t believe that the tide of popular 
feeling or popular interest in public affairs ever ran so low as at present 
in this or any other free country." 

His health continues bad, and at times he is confined to his 
room, but there is no intermission in his letters, for he finds it, 
he says, " easier to write than not to write." 

On the 14th of December he made a speech in the House 
in answer to Mr. Mace, of Indiana, who had announced the 
determination of himself and his party to vote for the repeal 
of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, on the ground that this measure 
was condemned by the people, and had given notice of his 
intention to introduce a bill to prohibit slavery in those Terri 
tories. After showing that the local elections throughout the 
States gave a very different testimony, Mr. Stephens thus meets 
the allegation that the South had been in the habit of claim 
ing and extorting more than her just rights from the Federal 
Government : 

" But the gentleman says that when Southern men s measures are vetoed, 
they raise their voices in tones of thunder until they carry them. Sir, I 
do not believe there ever was a Southern measure vetoed. I do not recol 
lect one. The South has never asked anything from your Government 
that called for a veto. There is the difference between us. The South 
asks but few favors from you. It is a class of gentlemen from the North 
who ask aid from the Government. Why, we never come here in that 
attitude. Let me ask the gentleman when any measure from the South 
was ever vetoed ? when the South ever asked anything that required the 
exercise of the veto power ? 
f" But the gentleman said that he admired the South, because knowing 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 231 

/ their rights, they dared maintain them. That I take as a compliment. 
And now, what is his position? Why the South, knowing their rights, 
and daring to maintain them, lie would have the North rise up and pre 
vent her from getting her known and acknowledged rights ! If we know 
our rights, and they are our rights, and we dare maintain them, why ought 
not the North, why ought not the gentleman (I will not say the North) to 
grant us our rights? Have we ever asked anything but what was right? 
Now I say, with all due respect to the gentleman, that the true position 
of the South is this : we lak nothing but what is right, and we submit 
to nothing that is wrong. That is the position that the South has always 
occupied, as I remember her history. 

"Now, sir, upon the subject of internal improvements which the gentle 
man alluded to, has the South ever asked legislative aid in that particu 
lar ? I do not speak now sectionally, or against the North ; but look at 
the whole history of our Government. Who is it that is constantly ap 
pealing here for legislative aid and legislative patronage ? Who ask for 
fishing bounties? Who ask for protection to navigation? Why, the 
people of the South, if they were permitted to use or employ foreign 
vessels in their coast trade, would be greatly benefited thereby. But 
American shipping must be protected ; and who is it that asks that pro 
tection, not only upon shipping, but almost everything else? Who is it 
that wants a duty on coal? Who upon iron? Who upon woollen goods? 
Who upon shoes, leather, cotton fabrics, everything? Why, the indus 
trial interests of the North. We of the South, it is true, sometimes 
grumble and complain ; but the great majority of the people of the South 
have yielded to what they consider in some instances very heavy exac 
tions for the support of Government. But when did we ever come up and 
ask any aid from the Government of the United States? The constant 
r prayer of the South to you has been to stay your hands. All that we ask 
/ of you is, keep your hands out of our pockets. That is all that the South 
, asks, and we do not get even that. It is true, sir, that in my own State 
we have asked some little favors, but very few. Some years ago we asked 
that you should take the obstructions out of the mouth of the Savannah 
River, not obstructions that nature put there, but that were put there 
during the Revolutionary War, to keep out a foreign fleet, put there not 
by the citizens of the State, but by public authority. It seems to us no 
thing but right and just that the General Government should remove those 
obstructions; but we have asked in vain for that. The gentleman says 
that the Representatives of the North come here and pass River and 
Harbor Bills, which are vetoed, and the wishes of their constituents are 
thereby defeated. Well, sir, we have some rivers in the South quite as 
navigable as those in Indiana-, but when did Georgia, or South Carolina, 
or Virginia, or the South generally, come and ask Congress to clear out 
those rivers? . . . 

" In the State of Georgia we have never asked for any harbor improve- 



282 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ments except for the removal of those obstructions at the mouth of the 
Savannah River ; and we never got that, as I have stated. We never asked 
the General Government to clear out our rivers. But we have a country 
of hill and valley, and we have to go to market with our products, for 
we grow some things in Georgia, notwithstanding that, in the opinion of 
the gentleman from Indiana, we are a heaven-accursed, slavery-doomed 
land, we grow some products in Georgia, I say. for market ; and how do 
we get them to market? Do we come here and ask aid of the General 
Government? No, sir. Why, in my State, we have now upward of a 
thousand miles of railroad in full operation. How did we obtain it? We 
took our surplus capital, and with it we bought human labor, human en 
ergy, bone and sinew, we bought the strong arms of our own citizens as 
well as of foreigners, to come and dig down the hills and fill up the valleys, 
and lay down the superstructure of our railroads, we bought the iron, when 
we could get it, in this country, and we went abroad for it when we could 
not get it here ; and notwithstanding all that, when we brought our iron 
into this country, we had to pay duty upon it to the General Government. 
Twenty millions of dollars have been spent in Georgia in constructing 
highways to our markets. That is the way we got our thousand miles 
of railroad. So far from coming here and receiving assistance from Gov 
ernment, we have actually had to pay a tax for the privilege of bringing 
our iron into the country. Georgia has paid not less than a million and 
a half of dollars as a duty on iron into the treasury for the privilege of 
building her own works of internal improvement. Now I would ask any 
candid man I would ask the gentleman himself if it is just, not only 
to tax Georgia for the privilege of constructing her highways, but then to 
take those very taxes that we have paid to open rivers in Indiana? It does 
not strike me that it is very just." 

After defending the principle established by the Nebraska 
Bill, that the people of each State and of each Territory on 
forming a State constitution should determine for themselves 
whether they would or would not admit the institution of 
slavery, he then touches the main question : 

" Why is it that gentlemen object so much to the introduction of slavery 
into Kansas, if the people of that Territory desire it to go there? When I 
made a speech at the last session upon this subject, I stated that I would 
vote for the principle of allowing the people of any section of the country 
to come into the Union and form institutions as they please. This I said 
when I knew there might be twice as many people there from the North 
as from the South, and the chances of emigration I knew would greatly 
preponderate in favor of the North. I am willing, now, to abide by that 
principle. I have no desire to deprive the people of any State or Territory, 
in our common country, of the right of adopting such institutions for their 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 283 

government, when they become States, as they please. It is anti-Ameri 
can, and entirely at war with the spirit of the age, about which we hear 
so much. I ask why the people of any section of the country should be 
prevented from adopting the institutions of the South, if they wish them ? 
SofiiaUy^jnorally, or politically^^ in any respect of the question, is there 
any reason for depriving them of that right? Is it for the sake of hu 
manity that gentlemen are not willing for the people of Kansas to assign 
"fine African the same condition there that he occupies in the South, if they 
think it best to do so? Are gentlemen willing to degrade their own race 
by not permitting them to vote upon matters relating to their own Govern 
ment, while they are endeavoring to elevate the negro to the standard of 
(jthe white man ? Youjnay degrade the white man, but you cannot raise 
the negro to the level you purpose. It is impossible. You have to reverse 
a law of nature first. Men may indulge in philanthropic speculations as 
muclT"as they please, but here is the great immutable law of nature, and 
they cannot avoid it. I.auLnjot here to argue wh-ether decre r cs of "the Most 
tli2h_are._r[ghtj wise, and just. sChere is a difference, a vast difference, 
established by the Creator between the different races of menj For myself, 
I believe that He who made all is just, and that He made the white man as 
He made him, and that He maole the negro as He made him for wise and 
just purposes. Some vessels are made for honor, and some for dishonor] 
one star differeth from another star in magnitude as well as brilliancy. Q 
believe, too, that the system of government, as adopted by the South, de 
fining the status or relation of these two races, is the best for both of them ; 
and I am prepared to argue that question with the gentleman, here or any 
where. Take the negroes in Indiana, take them in the North generally, 
and compare their condition with those of the South. Take them in Africa, 
take them anywhere on the face of the habitable globe ; and then take them 
in the Southern States(jmd the negro population of the South is better off, 
better fed, better clothed, better provided for, enjoy more happiness, and a 
higher civilization, than the same race has ever enjoyed anywhere else on 
the face of the world. Gould Howard the philanthropist, who has left an 
undying fame for his deeds of humanity, have taken the same number of 
Africans from their native country and raised them from their barbarous 
condition to that of the slaves of the South, he would have added much 
to that statue of immortality which, in his day, he erected to himself. It 
would have grea.tly added to that reputation which now sanctifies his 
memory in the hearts and affections of mankind. 

After comparing the condition of the slaves at the South with 
that of the free blacks at the North, he continues : 

" But some people say that slavery is a curse to the white man. They 
abandon the idea that it is a curse to the negro. They say it weakens, 
impoverishes, and demoralizes a State. Let us see. They say there can 



284 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

be no high social, moral, or material development under the institution 
of slavery. I have before me some statistics on this point, statistics 
relating to material development. But, before alluding to them, I will 
say, upon the subject of morals, that I saw a table of crimes made out in 
the census office for 1850. From those statistics it appeared I speak 
from memory that the number of convictions for crimes of every grade 
in Massachusetts, the land of steady habits, and where we hear so much 
of the immoral effects of slavery, with a population under one million, was 
several thousand ; while in the State of Georgia, with a population about 
as great, the similar convictions are less than one hundred. I say then, 
upon the score of crime, upon the score of morals, I am ready to compare 
my State with Massachusetts, or any one of the free States. Where, then, 
is the moral curse which arises from slavery?" 

He then turns to the question of material development, and 
refutes the assertion that slavery impoverishes a State by a com 
parison of the staple products of Georgia and Ohio. Ohio had, 
by the census, nearly one-third more land under improvement 
than the State of Georgia, and this land was valued at more 
than three times the value of the Georgia lands. Her popula 
tion was more than double that of Georgia. Yet the compari 
son of products showed that those of Georgia were worth about 
a quarter of a million dollars more than those of Ohio ! This 
whole speech made a great impression, and led to an animated 
debate with Mr. Campbell, of Ohio, next year. 

We now return to the correspondence. 

December 23d. " I have been so pressed with business, and so unwell 
withal under my pressure, that I have not been able to write you. It seems 
to me that my labors here increase with my length of service. I am worn 
down and nearly worn out, and yet I keep up at work until eleven o clock 
every night. I believe I never stood so high in public estimation here as 
I now do, and this is what puts so much business on me. My position 
on the Ways and Means makes it necessary for me to see a great many 
persons and look into a great many matters." 

December 24th. The date of this letter warns us to expect the 
usual gloom, which does not fail to find expression. 

" It is Sunday and Christmas-eve. I am not exactly alone, but lonely 
in feeling. About me I have company in abundance, but my mind wan 
ders to persons and scenes far distant. The closing year always fills me 
with sadness. At least it has done so ever since our family was dispersed, 
when I was but a boy. Before that painful crisis in my life Christinas was 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 285 

a joyous time. Its coming was looked to for weeks as a period of jubilee. 
Never has it been so with me since I left the old homestead and fireside 
lighted up with a father s smile. To-day, I know not why, I feel particu 
larly melancholy on the return of that season which to all others is usu 
ally the season of festivity. Perhaps the dreariness of the day adds some 
weight to the depression of my spirits. At any rate, so it is ; the very 
signals of joy that others are firing sound in my ears like minute-guns at 
sea. 

" Shall I ever see another Christmas-eve ? Why should I wish it? Life 
to me is desolate. For what object should I wish to live ? As to myself, 
I assure you I have none. YeJ: to the world I am by no means rnisan- 
throjiic, w_iiile-th.ei-ar cords which bind jMeJio_a_j:]ejvj[^^ 
nerves of life. But what can my longer stay on this theatre do for them? 
[Will it_jiat--ke r if such a future is in store for me, but a prolongation of 
painful anxiety and miserable solicitude for their welfare, without any 
ability to shape, much less to control, their destiny ?f These you may look 
upon as gloomy reflections. They are. I am utterly enveloped in gloom. 
Shadows. surround me and thick darkness seems coming over me. My life 
is burdened with the discharge of duties heavy and onerous. Among these 
duties none^ oppress me more than the ordinary civilities and courtesies 
of life. /JJjnean tne entertainment of those whom I meet, so as to render 
them as happy as I can without making known to them by word or look 
the aching void within. /-This I consider a duty, but it requires a great 
effort to perform it. It is a legitimate tax to society which every member 
ought to pay. ... It is often a matter of thought and reflection to me, 
when friends have left my room whomflhave kept in a roar of laughter, 
how little do they know of the miserableness of one who appeared to be in 
such spirits./ Then comes the self-inquiry, ^Am I indeed a hypocrite? of 
all_jjharacters_to me thejnost detestable. I think not. A man is under 
no more obligation to expose his griefs than to exhibit his bruises and 
sores. These should be shown" to only the trusted few who have access to 
"tlie inner shrine of his heart. jTo_ this shrine, with me, but one living 
being upon earth was ever admitted, and that one is yourself. If I had 
not one at least with whom I thus could communicate, it appears to me that 
life would become intolerable^ Do you ask, then, why I am thus miserable? 
It is because I meet with little sympathy from the world. Even the praise 
of those who approve, from whatever motive given, is often, indeed most 
frequently offered, in a manner which is gall and wormwood to me. My 
life has been a warfare from the beginning. My strife kasLbppn with fn-f-P--- 
The contest began in the cradle and will encTonly in the grave. Weak 
and sickly, I was sent into the world with a constitution barely able to 
sustain the vital functions. Health I have never known and do not expect 
to know. But this I could bear : pain I can endure ; I am used to it. 
Physical sufferings are not the worst ills I am heir to. I find no unison 
of feelings, tastes, and sentiments with the world. ... I feel myself to be 



286 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

alone ; and feel that my habitation should be in solitude. But do not 
think that I cower before fate. No ; to my destiny I bow, submissively 
bow to that which is beyond my control. I yield to nothing else. And 
even in solitude I feel that spirit within me which would enable me, so far 
from sinking into despair, to drink to the very dregs the bitterest cup that 
time can measure out, and looking up, ask for more." 

Other letters refer to the Know-No thing party, then just 
coming into notice. Not being informed of their policy, he 
suspends his judgment about them, except that he is opposed to 
all. secret organizations in a Republic, " where," he says, "every 
man ought to have his principles written on his forehead." 

December 31st. A letter in the usual style for this season. 
He digresses, however, into politics a little. 

il Public sentiment in this country is in a transition state,- so far as the 
principle of party organization is concerned. Old parties, old names, old 
issues, and old organizations are passing away. A day of new things, 
new issues, new leaders, and new organizations is at hand. The men now 
in power, holding their places by the foulest coalition known in our his 
tory, seem not to foresee that doom which evidently awaits them. Stand 
ing upon no policy but the division of the spoils, their time is taken up in 
revelry and riotous living out of the public treasury. But like Belshaz- 
zar at the feast, they have the handwriting on the wall, whether they can 
read it or not." 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 

A Complimentary Dinner Keply to Mr. Campbell Letter on Know- 
Nothingism Becomes a Candidate for Re-Election Speech at Augusta 
Linton s Nomination The Campaign Mr. Stephens elected Dead- 
Lock in the House Advice to the President. 

THE first day of 1855 is greeted with a long letter, full of 
good wishes and good counsel to his brother. On the 4th of 
January he writes again, and gives an account of a little merry 
making the day before. 

"Mr. and Mrs. Toombs and myself gave Mr.* and Mrs. Dawson a sort 
of bridal or complimentary dinner. We had thirteen persons at table 
besides ourselves. The company consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Dawson, 
Governor and Mrs. Pratt, Governor and Mrs. Brown, Mr. and Mrs. 
Badger, Mr. Hilliard, of Alabama, Dr. Ileese, of Georgia, Colonel liar- 
dee, U. S. A., Judge Wayne, and Mr. Pearce, of Maryland. The dinner 
was a splendid one, one of the best I ever saw served in Washington." 

After describing the arrangements and menu, the order of the 
guests, etc., he speaks of the conversation at table. 

"We had one pass that made a roar of laughter in which all joined. 
Badger proposed to drink my health. He was at the farther end of the 
table, so that all heard him. He began by saying that when La Fayette 
visited this country, he inquired of some one who was presented to him 
if he was married. The gentleman answered that he was. Happy man ! J 
replied the old general. The next one coming up was asked the same 
question, and the answer was No. Lucky dog ! exclaimed La Fayette. 
Badger then drank to me as the lucky dog. When all had emptied their 
glasses, I said that La Fayette had shown great tact in getting out of a 
scrape ; greater, I feared, than I should show. But, as I knew nothing 
of the mysteries of the happy man s case, I could only reply in the lan 
guage of a Western lawyer I once heard of, who concluded his argument 
by saying, ; May it please your Honor, I know nothing of the mysteries 



* Hon. Wm. C. Dawson, Senator from Georgia, who had just married 
his second wife. 

287 



288 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

of the law of this case, and my only reliance is to trust to the sublimity 
of luck, and float on the surface of the occasion. All laughed heartily 
and agreed that I had got off very well." 

Mr. Campbell, of Ohio, had replied to Mr. Stephens s speech 
of December 14th, directing his reply especially to the assertion 
that the South had asked and received few, if any, favors at 
the hands of the General Government, and to the comparisons 
which Mr. Stephens drew between the products of Ohio and 
Georgia. To certain parts of Mr. Campbell s remarks Mr. 
Stephens made some reply at the time, but when the speech, 
considerably amplified and revised, had appeared in type, he 
took occasion, as we shall see, to answer it thoroughly. To the 
first part of this debate the next letter refers. 

January 6th. You are right in your opinion as to my reason for not 
answering Campbell s question, has Congress the power to prohibit 
slavery in a Territory ? My apprehension is that if they were to do it, 
the Supreme Court would hold it to be misconstitutional. Hence I always 
fought the Wilinot Proviso, because I thought there was something in it. 
But I believe that the exercise of such power on the principle and with a 
view to the total exclusion of the South from a participation in the Terri 
tories would be a gross abuse of power, such as would justify revolution. 
If I had denied the power, as he expected I would and hoped I would, 
then his object was to show that I had voted for the extension of the 
Missouri line, which vote sanctioned the exercise of this power north of 
36 30 X . That is an inconsistency I have never yet committed. I regret 
that it has been committed by so many Southern men. Calhoun denied 
the power, yet was for the compromise line ; and the same position is 
taken by the whole fire-eating crowd. ... I have been endeavoring for 
some days to get the floor in order to come back on Campbell on his sta 
tistics. All of them have been compiled since he spoke. Not one word 
of them was uttered in his spoken speech. He was more than a -week 
writing it out." 

January Sth. This is another of his black days. 

" It seems to me that but for an effort that no other mortal upon earth 
would make, I should sink into profound indifference to all things con 
nected with men and their affairs. But with that effort that I daily exert, 
to the persons about me I appear, I have no doubt, to be one of the most 
cheerful and happy men upon earth. I dined on Saturday at Preston s.* 
There was a large party, a splendid" show, and I went through it just 

* W. Preston, of Kentucky, afterwards Minister to Spain. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 289 

as if I enjoyed it. I thought it my duty to do so, and for that reason I 
diditrTBut if I had consulted my own inclinations, I should have spent 
thlj tihie in solitude." 

On the 15th of January, Mr. Stephens made his remarkable 
speech in reply to Mr. Campbell, of Ohio. The largest audience 
of the session was present, and the impression made, both on 
the House and the public, was very great. Mr. Campbell had 
attempted to refute the assertion of Mr. Stephens that the South 
had received few, if any, favors at the hands of the General Gov 
ernment, by referring to the acquisition of Louisiana, Florida, 
Texas, and the Territories acquired by the Mexican War. Mr. 
Stephens replied that these acquisitions are not for the benefit 
of the South alone, but for that of all the States. That, more 
over, the purchase of Louisiana covered a vast tract of terri 
tory reaching from the Gulf to 49 north latitude, and west to 
the Rocky Mountains, of which the North received more than 
double the amount that fell to the South. As to Florida, the 
acquisition of that State brought with it the acquisition of Oregon 
and Washington Territory, or three hundred and eight thousand 
and fifty-two square miles, while Florida had but fifty-nine 
thousand and sixty-eight. So while Texas came in as a slave 
State with two hundred and thirty-seven thousand five hundred 
and four square miles, the North, on the Territories obtained 
from Mexico, received six hundred and thirty-two thousand 
one hundred and fifty-seven square miles in California, New 
Mexico, and Utah. He showed further that if the line of 
36 30 were to be taken as the boundary between North and 
South, of the new Territories acquired one million eight hundred 
thousand square miles lay north of that line, and but seven 
hundred thousand south of it. So that it ill-befitted a Northern 
man to refer to the acquisition of these Territories as favors 
granted to the South. 

He then referred to Mr. Campbell s strictures upon his sta 
tistics of the products of Ohio and Georgia. Mr. Campbell 
had asserted that Mr. Stephens had valued the products of Ohio 
at too low figures, and those of Georgia too high, to prove 
which assertion he had constructed a set of tables to show a 
heavy balance in favor of Ohio. Mr. Stephens in reply pro- 

19 



290 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

duced a memorandum drawn up for him some time before by 
Mr. Campbell himself, at his request, giving to Ohio products 
the identical values which he had taken ! This exhibition was 
a nailer , and its production caused a great sensation. Still, Mr. 
Stephens continued, he was willing to adopt though he denied 
its equity Mr. Campbell s position that the same prices should 
be attached to the same articles in the comparison, irrespective 
of what value they might bear in their home markets; and was 
content to value all by Ohio prices. This done, the tables 
showed a still greater balance in favor of Georgia! He then 
took up Mr. Campbell s figures, and showed their monstrous 
fallacies, such as estimating the hay-crop of Ohio at sixteen 
dollars per ton, as so much of Ohio s wealth, when it bore no 
such price there, nor anything like it ; the New York cost, which 
Mr. Campbell had quoted, being chiefly due to the expense of 
transportation. (This ridiculous fallacy of estimating the whole 
hay-crop of the Western prairies at the price baled hay was 
bringing in the New York market, as if the cost of transporta 
tion of a product to a distant market was a part of the wealth, 
instead of an offset to the wealth, of the producing region, has 
been often since repeated and believed even by those who should 
have more sense. It would be quite as reasonable to calculate 
the tons of ice in the glaciers of Greenland and estimate them 
at their value in the market of Havana; a proceeding which 
would show that desolate region as richer than all Europe.) 

Other points of statistics he took up in turn, and in each 
showed triumphantly that they bore out the truth of his position. 
We cite an instance : 

" I come now to railroads. The gentleman says that Ohio has 2367 
miles of railroad in operation, while Georgia has but 884, by the census, 
placing Ohio 1485 miles ahead. Very well, sir. This is a very good 
showing ; and if she had five times as many more miles, it would have 
nothing to do with what I said about agricultural products. But. sir, as 
favorable as this showing seems to be for Ohio, if we look a little into the 
matter, it will not be so bad for Georgia as the gentleman seems to imagine. 
I find, by looking into the Railroad Journal, and taking all the roads in 
Ohio and Georgia, the condition of which is given in that publication, 
that 1071 miles of the Ohio roads, which have a capital of $18,094,102, 
have also a funded debt of $12,225,400; while in Georgia, 553 miles of 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 291 

her roads, the capital of which is $9,099,975, have a funded debt of only 
$732,401. 

u From this it appears that the roads in Ohio, as far as I have been able 
to get information, are two-thirds unpaid for ; while in Georgia less than 
one-twelfth of hers is unpaid for. If all the roads in each State, therefore, 
stand in a similar condition, or if the 1071 in one and 553 in the other 
may be taken as a sample for the whole in each State, then Georgia has 
more road completed and paid for than Ohio has. Two-thirds of 2367, the 
number of miles of the Ohio roads, is 1578, which, taken from that sum, 
leaves only 789 miles in operation and paid for. While one-twelfth taken 
from 884 miles of the Georgia roads, leaves 811 miles complete and paid 
for. And why should not these improvements, boasted of as they are as 
evidence of prosperity, be subjected to this test? Is it any more evidence 
of the thrift or prosperity of a people that they have railroads for which 
they are heavily encumbered, than it is of the thrift or prosperity of a man, 
from the fact that he accumulates property by running in debt for it? A 
man s real thrift can only be correctly ascertained by knowing not only 
what he has and what he makes, but what he owes ; and the same prin 
ciple is equally applicable to States or communities." 

With the same masterly clearness he swept away the other 
sophistical arguments of his opponent, establishing more firmly 
than ever the just boast of his friends that " no man ever got 
the better of Stephens in debate." And these triumphs were not 
won by flourishes of rhetoric, or by ingenious jugglery with 
words ; but by strong argument, by reasoning clear and irrefrag 
able, and by the power of his never-failing memory, that seemed 
never to lose its grasp, and was always ready to supply the facts 
on which his argument rested or which helped to sustain it. 

January 18th. " I have been quite unwell all this week. Monday I 
spoke. I had an immense audience, and made, I think, a good speech." 

After some complaints of the manner in which his speeches 
are reported by the press, he concludes : " I would not thus 
speak of myself to any other person upon earth." 

January 21st. " The Democratic members from the South are generally 
a good-for-nothing set. They follow the Administration, and the whole 
Administration policy now is courting the North. They are undisguisedly 
against Cuba, and against Kansas coming in as a slave State. That is, 
they want the people there to prohibit it, and hence Southern members do 
not look with favor upon any argument in favor of Southern institutions. 
As to the Southern press, what shall I say of it ? It does nothing but re- 



292 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

vamp Northern ideas and Northern news. If I were to illustrate it by a 
figure, I could draw a very apt one from Ohio, on which my thoughts have 
lately been mostly occupied. The way of fattening hogs there in some 
places is to put them in pens or floors in tiers over each other. The corn 
is first given to the topmost tier. What passes through is fed upon by the 
next, and so on down to the last, and what stuff they have ! Such is just 
the stuff which descends from the Northern to the Southern press." 

In the spring lie paid a visit of several days to Linton, and 
after returning home he complains of ill health, and writes in a 
rather melancholy vein : 

" I have a presentiment that my career is nearly run. I have a great 
deal to say to you ; but it does seem when we are together that I have no 
time to talk. Soon we shall be separated, never to meet in this life ; and 
then how strange it will seem to you that we talked so little about those 
things that you will then think most about !" 

The later letters for this year have much to say about Know- 
Nothingism. The Whig party having been disorganized by 
affiliations of its Northern members with the Free-Soilers, this 
new party sprang into being, and soon drew into its ranks a 
majority of Southern Whigs and a considerable number of 
Southern Democrats. Mr. Stephens, so soon as he learned -its 
principles, opposed it with energy. Its restrictions on foreign 
ers desiring citizenship; its introduction of religious tests into 
politics; the fact of its being a secret political organization, 
these he considered utterly opposed to republicanism and the 
spirit of our institutions. But he had determined not to be a 
candidate for re-election, and therefore took a public position on 
this issue later than he would otherwise have done. 

He writes, on April 20th, on his return from Oglethorpe 
court : 

"I have determined to have nothing more to do with politics under the 
new regime. I notified them in conversation at Oglethorpe that I was out 
of the field. I was not a candidate for re-election, and I should not be as 
things were now going. The leading ideas now sought to be inculcated 
upon the Whigs are to proscribe foreigners and Catholics ; but I should 
do neither, . . . The most dangerous enemies to our country are the Free- 
Soilers and Abolitionists. To crush them out I would join with any 
honest man, be he Jew or Gentile, American-born or adopted citizen." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 293 

Oil the 5th of May, Judge Thomas W. Thomas addressed 
him a letter, requesting him to make public his views with 
regard to the Know-Nothing party, to which he replied* on 
the 9th with what is known as-h Letter on Know-Nothingism, 
in whifthjift disspcfc fhf> prjnfj|TJfts of the party; shows the evtt 
results which will flow from them, and the covert mischief 
which they were intended to effect; and shows how, of all men, 
the Southern people should be opposed to such a party and such 
principles. This letter produced a strong impression throughout 
the State, where the new order had a very large following ; 
indeed, it is probable that at this time it was favored by a large 
majority of the voters in his own district. The impressive 
appeal from a man whose sincerity and patriotism had never 
been really doubted, even by those who differed most widely 
from him in political views, "kindled a blaze in Sam s camp, 
and for a while looked like blowing it up," especially in the 
western counties of Georgia. But the leaders of the new party 
exerted themselves to the utmost to counteract this effect, and 
raised the excitement to a pitch that had never before been known 
in the State. The most rancorous hostility was directed against 
Mr. Stephens, and it was asserted by many leading Know- 
Nothings that his opposition was merely the result of his dis 
appointed ambition and mortification at being forced to retire 
from Congress ; as he knew that the new party would have 
nothing to do with him. These taunts, and a conviction of 
the mischief that would result from the success of the new 
party, changed Mr. Stephens s resolution, and he determined to 
take the field again. 

On May 26th he writes : 

" To-morrow night I intend to go to Augusta and declare myself a 
candidate for Congress. I have heard taunts that I am afraid to run. I 
will run, let the consequences be what they may. I may be beaten : but I 
may sow seeds of truth in the canvass that hereafter may save the country. 
If I can do that, what though I fall ? ^The times are ominous, and every 
man should do what he can to arrest a monstrous outrage upon the 
Constitution, though he fall in his work??. . . I feel my blood up. When 
the preacher s voice is raised for religious persecution, and against the 
Catholics, I think of the infamous Titus Gates. Enough ! I shall be in 
the fight, thick and heavy." 



294 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

So he went to Augusta, and made a public speech, in which 
he announced himself a candidate for re-election. Alluding to 
the taunts that he was afraid, he speaks thus : 

"I am afraid of nothing on earth, or above the earth, or under the 
earth, but to do wrong. The path of duty I shall endeavor to travel, 
fearing no evil, and dreading no consequences. I would rather be defeated 
in a good cause than to triumph in a bad one. I would not give a fig for 
a man who would shrink from the discharge of duty for fear of defeat." 

He then launched out into an attack upon the principles of 
the new order : 

"They assume," he says, "the specious motto Americans shall rule 
America, yet they aim at putting a large class of as good and as true 
native Americans as the writer himself" [an opponent to whom he is 
referring] " under the ban of civil proscription. Are not the descendants 
of Catholic Marylanders as much Americans by birth as the New England 
descendants of the Puritans that landed on Plymouth rock ? While the 
specious outside title of the party is, Americans shall rule America/ 
when we come to look at its secret objects as they leak out, we find that 
one of its main purposes is not that Americans shall rule America, but 
that those of a particular religious faith, though as good Americans as 
any others, shall be ruled by the rest." 

He next showed that the immediate, the pressing danger was 
not from the Catholics, but from the Free-Soilers and Abolition 
ists, and that it was the wildest madness to neglect a real and 
imminent, to provide for a contingent and imaginary peril. 
Again he strikes at the secret character of the movement, as 
unfitted to a free and republican community, where all public 
acts, measures, and parties should be open to public scrutiny. 
Such an organization partook of the nature of a conspiracy, 
and could only be justified on the ground that it was revolu 
tionary in its character, and an attempt, by unlawful means, 
to overthrow the Constitution. He denounced the attempt to 
introduce religious tests, and bring about a religious Avar, for 
such would undoubtedly be the result. 

"It is," he says, "the first movement of the kind since the foundation of 
our Government. Already we see the spirit abroad which is to enkindle 
the fires and set the fagots a-blazing, not by the Catholics: they are 
comparatively few and weak ; their only safety is in the shield of the con 
stitutional guaranty ; minorities seldom assail majorities; arid persecutions 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPII1-;.\X. 095 

always begin with the larger numbers against the smaller. But this 
spirit is evinced by one of the numerous replies to my letter. He says, 
We call upon the children of the Puritans of the North and the Hugue 
nots of the South, by the remembrance of the fires of Smithfield and the 
bloody St. Bartholomew, to lay down for once all sectional difficulties, 
etc., and join in this great American movement of proscribing Catholics. 
What is this but the tocsin of intestine strife? Why call up the remem 
brance of the fires of Smithfield but to whet the Protestant appetite for 
vengeance? Why stir up the quiet ashes of bloody St. Bartholomew 
but for the hope, perhaps, of finding therein a slumbering spark from 
which new fires may be started? Why exhume the atrocities, cruelties, 
and barbarities of ages gone by from the repose in which they have been 
buried for hundreds of years, unless it be to reproduce the seed and 
spread among us the same moral infection and loathsome contagion? Just 
as it is said the plague is sometimes occasioned in London by disentombing 
and exposing to the atmosphere the latent virus of the fell disease still 
lingering in the dusty bones of those who died of it centuries ago !" 

The speech closed with an eloquent appeal to all who loved 
their country and constitutional liberty- to open their eyes to the 
real dangers and the real enemies who were to be feared, and to 
co-operate zealously with any men or party, North or South, who 
would help to combat them. In conclusion he announced him 
self as a candidate, irrespective of the action of any convention. 

In June, Linton Stephens was nominated as a candidate for 
Congress, in the seventh (adjoining) district, and on the 23d his 
brother thus writes to him, on his return from a visit of several 
days : 

" The ride to me this evening was one of meditation. . . . You were 
the central figure of my thoughts. Your success, not only in this new 
step you are about to take, but in the greater future of life before you, 
just now beginning to open, this was the engrossing theme of my 
thoughts. You embody all that is really dear to me in life. In you and 
about you are centred all my hopes and aspirations of an earthly nature ; 
and whatever affects your welfare and happiness touches me more sensi 
tively, if possible, than anything that affects my own. I could bear 
almost anything if I knew that all was well with you. And I shall feel 
and take much more interest in your success in this race than in my own. 
If you are elected I shall feel content, whatever may be my fate. Arm 
yourself, therefore, for the fight. The first thing is to get a perfect com 
mand of your temper: on all occasions on the stump to be in a good 
humor. Provide yourself with every document or reference that you may 
want. Think of the question in all its length and breadth, until your soul 



296 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

shall glow with the ardor of patriotism, which shall seek vent by utter 
ance through the lips. Good-night. My old house looks cheerless to 
night." 

June 29th. " To-morrow I go to Ray town, then to Elbert, then to Co 
lumbia, then to Jefferson. Fenn s Bridge on the 17th July. I have 
been quite unwell all the week, and am so still. The weather is hot, and 
I am getting weak. It is said that there will be a tremendous crowd at 
Raytown to-morrow. Oh that I were strong in body !" 

June 30th. " I have just returned from Raytown. We had a good time 
there to-day. A large crowd present, from Augusta, Washington, War- 
renton, Greensborough, and Columbia Court-House. I was feeble, but I 
think I made one of the best speeches I ever made in my life. This is my 
opinion ; I do not know what others may think of it. I would not say 
this to any other in the world but to you, and to you only because I know 
you would like to have my opinion as well as that of others. Poor Ire 
land was out in mass. . . . The spirit was in me, and I never spoke with 
greater liberty and unction. P wished to know whom I would sup 
port for Governor. I told him I would consider of that matter. He 
knew I did not intend to vote for Johnson. If Andrews* would come 
out and declare himself in -opposition to the two leading articles of the 
Know-Nothing creed, I might vote for him. But the contest I was en 
gaged in was one of my own. The Governor s election was a matter that 
I should have nothing to do with, except, perhaps, to vote. I had my 
own canoe to paddle, and every man in this campaign must tote his own 
skillet. 1 " 

This " skillet" was a reference to an anecdote, well known to 
Linton, of the elder General Dodge, Senator for Iowa. Daring 
the war of 1812 he and a number of others were taken prisoners 
by a party of Indians, who, in their marchings about, compelled 
the prisoners to carry the cooking utensils of their captors as 
well as their own. At the end of about the third day the 
general, desperate of consequences, stopped, threw down his 
burden, and remarked, " Mr. Indian, from henceforth every 
man of this crowd has got to tote his own skillet, so far as I m 
concerned !" 

August 5th. Augusta. " We had a great day here yesterday. A very 
large crowd, much larger than I expected. Jenkins announced and intro 
duced me in his happiest style. I spoke two hours and a half. The 



* Hon. Garnett Andrews, Know-Nothing candidate for Governor, against 
Governor Johnson, who was a candidate for re-election. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 297 

speech took very well, but it was by no means one of my best efforts. 
The weather was too hot : I was too hoarse, and felt feeble. At the din 
ner-table I gave them a brief home-touch with much greater effect. The 
"point in my speech there, which produced the greatest effect, was the com- 
j ments I made on the Know-Nothing constitution, the three great powers, 
I to tax, to punish, and to decide the national politics. That produced a 
~strong effect, I think, and, strange to say, several of the most prominent 
and sensible men in Augusta were surprised at it. They had never heard 
of it before." 

August 13th. Louisville, Georgia. " I am glad you are getting on so 
well. In my district I should have no difficulty, I think, if I were not 
complicated with the Governor s election. How it will be in the end I 
cannot say. In Burke there are but few Know-Nothings, but they will 
not run a ticket there. The Johnson men will run me. I am apprehen 
sive that this will cause the Andrews men to vote the other way. Johnson 
cannot carry the county. lie will be beaten by two hundred votes, they 
say. So you see how I may be mashed up by that operation. I made 
them one of my best speeches at "\Vaynesborough, and am to speak at two 
other places in the county this week. But all this is labor lost. They 
have no ticket out for the Legislature, and it is folly to be addressing them 
now." 

September 16th. " In Morgan* the die is cast. Men there are bitter. 
Speaking does no good, not a particle. At least speaking in towns does 
not." 

September 20th. He and Mr. Toombs have been speaking in 
Columbia, where friends say they will carry the election by a 
tight squeeze. Toombs is going into Linton s district. 

He will do you more good than he will me. I think I shall be elected 
by six hundred majority. Write to me at Washington. I shall be there 
next Monday, go to Augusta Tuesday, go up to Providence, speak there 
Friday, and Raytown Saturday, come home then and watch the result. I 
wish the election was over. I feel a great deal more interest in your case 
than I do in my own. I am prepared for your defeat ; and yet I can but 
hope against hope." 

As he feared, Linton was beaten by his opponent, N. G. 
Foster, by a small vote, less than a hundred. Alexander was 
elected over his opponent, Lafayette Lamar, by a majority of 
nearly three thousand, one of the heaviest he has ever received. 

This was perhaps the most exciting campaign ever held in 

* Morgan County was in Linton s district. 



298 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 



Georgia. \Mr. Stephens entered into it with unusual spirit and 
zeal, and, though in very weak health, was indefatigable in his 
exertions, making many addresses, as powerful as were ever 
heard at the hustingsTj In some he rose to a truly wonderful 
height of eloquence. The summer was excessively hot. He 
would speak for hours, and at last sink exhausted from mere 
fatigue, every thread of his clothes drenched with perspiration. 
Wrapping himself in a cloak, he would hurry to his hotel, 
change his clothes, and then drive off in his buggy, with his 
servant Harry and his faithful Rio, to keep another appoint 
ment, thirty or forty miles distant, on the next day. Such dis 
plays of power by a being so slight and frail, excited even more 

than the usual astonishment among his hearers. " My G !" 

cried a man who then saw him for the first time, u there is 
nothing about him but lungs and brains !" His denunciations 
of the secret order were terrific, and often apprehensions were 
felt of serious disturbances at his appointments. The wrath of 
the Know-Nothing leaders knew no bounds; and threats were 
made that unless he moderated his tone, measures would be taken 
to silence him. He was once asked if he did not consider that 
some of his attacks were rather too severe. " No," he an 
swered ; " it is a disease not for plasters, but for the knife." 

The sudden rise of this party, and the energy with which it 
struggled for success, are among the strangest things in our 
history. It was astonishing to see how quickly and fiercely the 
passions of religious hostility were kindled up, while there were 
many men, the disgrace of humanity, who strove to inflame these 
passions, even at the risk of plunging the country into a religious 
war, merely to gain their personal and selfish ends ; and even at 
this day there are some who try to fan the extinct embers into 
flame again, for purposes not more creditable. When the move 
ment had collapsed, most of the participants were ashamed of 
their connexion with it, and many and ingenious were the ex 
cuses they devised to explain their action. Mr. Stephens was 
asked by a friend if he thought they would renew the fight 
next year. He answered, " No. They will run from Know- 
Nothingism as they would from the carcass of a horse, yes, 
of an elephant." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 299 

In November he went to Washington, D. C., from which 
place he writes, on the 30th : 

" I am once more, as you see, in Washington, and I feel badly. If I 
had my course for the last nine months to go over again, I believe now I 
should not be a candidate, but should remain at home and attend to my 
business. In public life the game with me is not worth the candle. I find 
it is all I can do to live here without going in debt ; while my affairs at 
home are sadly neglected in my absence. At the hotel I could not get 
comfortable quarters for less than about one hundred and fifty to one hun 
dred and seventy-five dollars per month for myself and servant. I looked 
about a day or two, and am now settled on the corner of Sixth and D 
Streets, at Crutchett s." 

December 2d. " I am very well pleased with the political prospect as 
far as I have yet seen. I find that a better state of feeling is now existing 
among the Northern Democrats than I ever saw before. I drew up a 
resolution for their caucus last night, which was presented by J. Glancy 
Jones, of Pennsylvania, and unanimously adopted. I did not go into the 
caucus, but heartily approve what they did. Every Northern Democrat in 
the House was for the resolution. You will see that I stick to your 
resolution of the last Georgia Legislature as a nucleus. Did you think 
when you drew that resolution that it was the germ of a great national 
organization?"* 

December 3d. u The Northern Democrats seem to think more of me than 
of their old party-line men. They have confidence in my integrity, and, 
among other things, spoke of my quitting the opposition in the majority, 
and acting with a minority on principle. This they look upon as a rare 
virtue in these days of going into <a_wild _ Jurat- -after office and spoils. 
You have quite a reputation here as an orator and stump-speaker. Cobb 
is loud in your praise. Georgia is held in high estimation ; and Cobb 
openly attributes the result to you and me. I think the Georgia election is 
more talked of than that of any other State in the Union. The members 
from Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, 
and Kentucky say they made the fight on my lead and the Georgia line." 

There is also an account of a dinner party, at which one 
thing struck him as curious : 

" I saw what I never saw before, persimmons set on the table with 
other fruits as part of the dessert ; and, strange to say, they were con- 

* In urging Mr. Jones to offer this resolution, Mr. Stephens said to him, 
" If you will do this, I will go up to the House, and bring all the Southern 
Whig support I can ; and if you will take the resolution and make it your 
platform, I guarantee the result." 



300 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

sidered a great rarity and favorite dish. Verily, other things besides 
prophets are not without honor save in their own country." 

At the beginning of this session of Congress occurred the great 
dead-lock in the House, owing to the inability of either party to 
elect a Speaker, which continued until the 4th of February. 

December llth. " We voted to-day again for Speaker. Banks got 107. 
Whether he can get the six more needed for election I cannot tell. If men 
were reliable creatures, I should say he never can. But my observation 
has taught me that very little confidence is to be placed on what they say 
asjio what they will do. ... I should not be surprised at any moment to 
see Cullom s Tennessee friends go over in mass to Banks. I would as soon 
vote for Banks as for Cullom. . . . Sometimes I have a good will to quit 
work and take my ease, and go home and attend to my business, letting 
the people get some one else to do their work. For what does it all amount 
to? Nothing absolutely nothing. This world s honor, when the cup of 
ambition is filled to the brim, is nothing at last but vanity and vexation of 
spirit." 

December 27th. "Banks came within three votes of election to-day. 
They rescinded my resolution about adjourning. When the vote was 
announced, old Miller at my right, whom you felt some interest about 
(touching his religion at least), remarked to me in rather an undertone, It 
is a G d shame ! I send you this as the only information I have 
received as to what church he belongs to." 

December 30th. " We adjourned last night at six o clock. No Speaker. 
. . . We have had a little work going on behind the curtain here for nearly 
two days, that may be interesting to you. The night before last, as I was 
going into the caucus, I called by Cobb s room for him. In conversation 
I learned from him that the President was very desirous for the House to 
organize. His message, he thinks, has important matters bearing upon 
foreign questions which may affect the question of peace in Europe, if 
they can be communicated so as to go out in the steamer of this week. 
By the by, I may tell you that he thinks that upon the publication of 
certain correspondence of Palmerston, he will be overthrown in Parlia 
ment, and then a peace ministry put in. Without considering the merits 
of that view at all, of which I am not fully advised, and looking only at 
the accomplishment of his object, to get his message out, I gave it as my 
opinion that, if I were President, and thus wishing to communicate public 
matters to Congress, I would send in my message without waiting an 
organization of the House. I would consider the members in session, and 
address them. Or, in any event, as the Senate was organized, I would 
address them in executive session, and then let them take off the secrecy 
and publish the message. This struck Cobb, and he put at me to take a 
hack and go immediately with him to the President. This we did. At 
first he did not seem to take to it at all : he was timid and shy ; but after 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 3Q1 

a while said he would think of it and consult his Cabinet. The thing was 
so unprecedented, he was afraid of it. 

" Yesterday he went to see Toombs about it in person. He [Toombs] 
concurred with me. In the evening I found a precedent in the British 
Parliament, when the House failed to elect a Speaker for fourteen days, 
and the Crown communicated with them by message, etc. The precedent 
is cited in Jefferson s Manual, under head Speaker. I showed it to 
Cobb : he immediately sent it to the President. In about an hour after 
wards Sam Smith, of Tennessee, who had been saying all day that the 
President wanted the House organized (this was said privately to friends), 
came to me and said that he had just received a note from the President, 
that we had better adjourn, as it made no matter about the election that 
day. The conclusion I came to was, that he had resolved to send in his 
message to-morrow, anyhow, either to both Houses, as I have stated, or to 
the Senate. Cobb got a note from him just before we adjourned, requesting 
him, Quitman, and myself to call to see him to-morrow morning at ten 
o clock. So I am expecting the message to-morrow, and if it turns out 
to be a premature birth, when you see this you will know the occasion of 
it." 

The message, as Mr. Stephens had anticipated, was sent in 
the next day ; but the House, not being organized, refused to 
have it read. 



CHAPTER XXIX. 

Debate with Mr. Zollicoifer Election of Mr. Banks A Plausible Scamp 
and a Domestic Tragedy The Minority Keport on the Kansas Election 
Anecdote of Mr.. Hale Speech on the Kansas Election News from 
Kansas Speech on the Admission of Kansas Death of John Stephens 
Correspondence with Mr. Johnston Negligence of Southern Kepresen- 
tatives Challenges Mr. B. H. Hill. 

THE first letter of the new year bears date January 8th, 1856. 

" Last night the Richardson men had a meeting, and we resolved to sit 
it out. This I brought them up to : the plurality rule they could not go. 
So to-morrow we shall have a continuous session. I am not well to-day. 
The snow is still unmelted. The thermometer yesterday morning. was 6 
below zero, in the city. Mine, hanging at my window, was at 2 above 
when I got up at seven. It was intensely cold : never since I have been 
in Washington was it colder." 

On the 17th of January, the House being still unorganized, 
and the Clerk in the chair, Mr. Stephens had a lively debate 
with Mr. Zollicoifer, of Tennessee, on the question whether 
Congress had or had not the power to establish or prohibit 
slavery in the Territories. The gist of his argument may be 
found in the closing paragraphs. The question had been asked : 
" If the people of the Territories have no power except that given 
to them by Congress, and Congress has no power to exclude 
slavery in the Territories, where do the people of the Territories 
get the power to exclude it there ?" Mr. Stephens replies : 

"The people have, in my opinion, the power to exclude it only in a 
State capacity, or when they form their State constitution. Then they 
get it where all the States get it. The people, in a Territorial condition, 
are but new States in embryo: this latent power of full sovereignty .^hen 
they assume State form, then develops itself 5 as wings to rise and fly, 
though latent in the chrysalis, do nevertheless develop themselves in full 
beauty, vigor, and perfection at the proper time. But I have this further 
to say in reply to the gentleman from Maine [Mr. Wash borne] . That 
gentleman, and I suppose a majority of this House, hold that Congress has 
the full and absolute power to exclude slavery from the Territories. Well, 
302 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 303 

sir, if Congress has such power, it has conferred that power upon the. 
popli i of Kansas and Xebniska. I hold that Congress has not such un 
qualified power ; but if it has, as the gentleman believes, then the people 
of those Territories possess it under the bill. This is evident from the 
language of the bill itself: 

f " That the Constitution and all laws of the United States, which are not locally 
inapplicable, shall have the same force and effect in the said Territory of Nebraska 
as elsewhere within the United States, except the eighth section of the "Act pre 
paratory to the admission of Missouri into the Union," approved March 6th, 1820, 
which being inconsistent with the principle of non-intervention by Congress with 
slavery in the States nnd Territories, as recognized by the legislation of 1850, com 
monly called the Compromise measures, is hereby declared inoperative and void; it 
being the true intent and meaning of this act not to legislate slavery into any Terri 
tory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom, but to leave the people thereof perfectly 
free to form and regulate their domestic institutions in their own way, subject only 
to the Constitution of the United States : 

" Provided, That nothing herein contained shall be construed to revive or put in 
! force any law or regulation which may have existed prior to the Act of Cth March, 
1820, either protecting, establishing, prohibiting, or abolishing slavery/ 

" Now, sir, as I have stated, I voted for this bill, leaving the whole 
matter to the people to settle for themselves, subject to no restriction or 
limitation but the Constitution. With this distinct understanding of its 
import and meaning, and with a determination that the existence of this 
power being disputed and doubted, it would be much better and much 
more consistent with our old-time republican principles to let the people 
settle it, than for Congress to do it. And although my own opinion is 
that the people, under the limitations of the Constitution, have not the 
rightful power to exclude slavery so long as they may remain in a Terri 
torial condition, yet I am willing that they may determine it for them 
selves, and when they please. I shall never negative any law they may 
pass, if it is the result of a fair legislative expression of the popular will. 
Never! I am willing that the Territorial Legislature may act upon the 
subject when and how they may think proper. We got the Congressional 
restriction taken off. The Territories were made open and free for immi 
gration and settlement by the people of all the States alike, with their 
property alike. No odious and unjust discrimination or exclusion against 
any class or portion ; and I am content that those who thus go there from 
all sections, shall do in this manner as they please under their organic 
law. I wanted the question taken out of the halls of national legislation. 
It has done nothing but disturb the public peace for thirty-five years or 
more. So long as Congress undertakes to manage it, it will continue to 
do nothing but stir up agitation and sectional strife. The^eopifL-CaiL. dis 
pose of it better than we can. Why not then, by common consent, drop 
~TT7it~once and forever? Why not you, gentlemen, around me, give up 
your so-called and so-miscalled republican ideas of restoring the Missouri 
restriction, and let the people in the far-off Territories of Kansas and Ne- 



304 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

braska look after their own condition, present and future, in their own 
way? Is it not much more consistent with Mr. Adams s ideas of republic 
anism for them to attend to their own domestic matters than for you or 
us to undertake to do it for them ? Let us attend to our business, and let 
them attend to theirs. What else keeps this House disorganized and sus 
pends all legislative business? I wished, sir, in voting for the Kansas 
Bill, and in carrying out in good faith the great principles established in 
1850, that memorable epoch, the middle of the nineteenth century, and 
fixing them as the basis and rule of action on the part of the General Gov 
ernment in her Territorial policy, to get rid of this disturbing question here, 
by referring it unrestrictedly, as far as I could under the Constitution, to 
tfre"""p0ple. If they have not the power to settle it while a Territory, as a 
matter of absolute right, ex debita justitia, I was willing, so far as I 
was concerned and had the power to do it, to give it to them as a matter 
of favor, ex gratia. I am willing, as I say, that they shall exercise the 
power; and, if a fair expression of the popular will not such as may be 
effected by New England Emigrant Aid Societies, or other improper inter 
ference, but the fair expression of the will of the hardy pioneers, who 
going from all sections without let or hindrance seek new lands and new 
homes in those distant frontier countries shall declare, in deliberate and 
proper form under their organic law, that slavery shall not exist among 
them, and, if I am here at the time, I shall abide by their decision. I, as 
a member upon this floor, never intend to raise the question of their con 
stitutional power to adopt such a measure. I shall never attempt to tram 
mel the popular will -in that case, although I may think such legislation 
wrong and unjust, and not consistent with constitutional duty on the part 
of those who enact it. Yet it will be a wrong without any feasible remedy, 
so far as I can see. I am for maintaining with steadfastness the Territorial 
Bills of 1850, the principle of leaving the people of the Territories, with 
out Congressional restriction, to settle this question for themselves, and to 
come into the Union, when admitted as States, either with or without 
slavery, as they may determine. This principle was recognized and estab 
lished after the severest sectional struggle this country has ever witnessed, 
and after the old idea, whether right or wrong in itself, whether just or 
unjust, whether constitutional or unconstitutional, of dividing the Territo 
ries between the sections, was utterly abandoned and repudiated by the 
party that at first forced it as an alternative upon the other. 

" The Kansas and Nebraska Act carries out the policy of this new princi 
ple instead of the old one. fThe country, with singular unanimity, sus 
tained the measures of 1850 ; ancfall that is now wanting for the permanent 
peace and repose of the whole Union upon all these questions is an 
adherence to the measures of 18507]both in principle and substance, 1 as 
the settled policy of Congress upmrSn such matters. That the people of all 
sections will come ultimately, and that before long, to this stand I cannot 
permit myself to doubt. Let us hear no more, then, of repeal. Let us 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 3Q5 

organize this body upon a national basis and a national settlement. Let 
us turn our attention to the business of the country which appropriately be 
longs to us. Yes, sir, the great and diversified interests of this truly great 
and growing country of ours, about which we talk and boast so much, and 
about which we have so much reason to talk and boast. Let us look to the 
fulfilment of the high and noble mission assigned us. Do not let the party 
watchwords of liberty and freedom for the black man, which some gen 
tlemen seem always ready to repeat, cause you to forget or neglect the 
higher objects and duties of government. These relate essentially to our 
own race, their well-being, their progress, their advancement. Let the infe 
rior race in our midst take that position for which, by a wise Providence, 
it was fitted, and which an enlightened and Christian civilization in the 
different sections of our common country may think proper to assign it. 

" Mr. Clerk, we hear a great deal nowadays about Americanism, and 
by not a few of those, too, who call themselves, par excellence, republicans. 
Now, sir, has America, with her hundreds of millions of foreign trade, 
and millions almost beyond count of internal and domestic trade, with 
her incalculable resources of commerce, agriculture, and manufactures in 
a state of rapid development, has America, the asylum of the misruled, 
misgoverned, and oppressed of all climes, the home of civil and religious 
liberty, the light of the world and the hope of mankind, no higher objects 
to occupy our attention than those questions which, whatever may be their 
merits touching the condition of the African race in the several States and 
Territories, do not properly come within the purview of our duties to look 
after here? questions, the discussion of which in this hall can have no 
possible effect but to create agitation, stir up strife, array State against 
State, section against section, and to render the Government, by suspend 
ing its legislative functions, incapable practically of performing those great 
and essential objects for which alone it was expressly created." 

February 1st. He lias just received a letter from Linton, at 
Lagrange, where he has been to see their brother John, who has 
been sick. 

" I have been sorely afflicted in mind, greatly grieved and troubled on 
account of John s illness. Life began to wear an unusually dark and 
melancholy appearance to me. I am now much more cheerful in spirits. 
How long this will last I cannot tell. . . . We are getting along very 
well without a Speaker yet. But for a faux pas on the part of that fool 

C , I think we should have made Aiken Speaker to-day. I had set 

the programme for it about ten days ago. My plan was this : after the 
plurality rule should have been adopted (which I have all along believed 
after a while would be) and two ballots should have been had under it, if 
the Southern Know-Nothings should not indicate a purpose to go over to 
Orr to prevent Banks s election (which I did not much expect them to do), 

20 



306 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

then Aiken was to be put in nomination on the floor, Orr to decline and 
let the last vote be between Aiken and Banks. From my knowledge of 
the House, its present tone and temper, knowledge of Aiken and the esti 
mation he was held in by several of the scatterers, I believed he would 
beat Banks. This I communicated to a few, and a few only. I gave 
Cobb, of Georgia, my idea : he was struck with it, and communicated it 
to a few others. It took finely. I sounded some of the Western Know- 
Nothings, Marshall and others, and found that they could be brought 
into it. I said nothing of my plan, but simply asked carelessly how Aiken 
would do. I found that he would do for them. But after his name began 

to be talked of, he got so popular in the minds of many that C , a fool, 

plugged the melon before it was ripe. That is, he offered a resolution to 
make Aiken Speaker, lie came within seven votes. If we had then been 
under the pressure of the plurality rule, and the choice between him and 
Banks, he would have been elected, sure as fate, in my opinion. For Scott 

Harrison, who voted No on C s resolution, had said he would vote for 

Aiken as between him and Banks. I have but little doubt that Haven would 
have done the same thing. So would Cullen, of Delaware, and Barclay, 
of Pennsylvania, who voted No to-day. These four would have carried 
the election, to say nothing of the scattering. As it is now, I fear the fat 
is all in the tire, but hope not. In a resolution to-day to make Banks 
Speaker he got 102: on a similar resolution Aiken got 103, even with 
Cullen, Barclay, Haven, and Harrison voting against him ; so if we had 
then been under the plurality rule, Aiken would have been chosen." 

February 2d. "The plurality rule has just been offered by Smith 
(Democrat). I am in the House, and the motion has been made since 
I commenced this letter. My apprehension is that all has been lost by 
yesterday s faux pasS 

February 4th> This letter is so blurred as to be almost illegi 
ble. It speaks of the election of Banks, and notes that this 
was the first election of the kind in the history of the country 
that was purely sectional. The course of the Democratic party 
in the election is highly praised. From this time Mr. Stephens 
acted with that party. 

February 5th. Linton has been inquiring about some money 
that he had lent. 

" You asked me some time ago if D and Y had returned me the 

amount I lent them. Not a dime of it; nor have I ever seen or heard a 
word. from either of them since I lent them the money, except that two 

days afterwards Y was here in this city. Cobb had lent him fifteen 

dollars, and Lumpkin, I believe, as much. I had a good will to go and 
have the wretch arrested. But I took a walk, and that cooled me off. I 
have often thought I never would let another mortal have money under 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 3Q7 

any circumstances to get away from this city on. It was a rash and foolish 
resolve on my part, for in about a week afterwards a very clever, frank, 
and manly-looking young gentleman called on me about three o clock at 
night, informing me of the very unpleasant situation into which he had 
unexpectedly been thrown. His name was Crawley ; his father lived in 
Richmond County." 

Then follows an account of the young man s misfortunes,. his 
getting twenty dollars, and his turning out to be a " regular 
sharper." This was no uncommon adventure with Mr. Stephens, 
who, with all his knowledge of the world, was liable to be im 
posed upon by any sharper, male or female, that could tell a 
plausible story and appeal to his benevolence. But not all the 
applicants for his assistance have been of this class, and he has 
relieved so many cases of real distress, which probably a more 
suspicious nature would have turned away, that he has been 
more than overpaid for the mortification of finding himself 
every now and then the victim of a swindler. His thoughts, 
however, in the letter before us, are soon diverted from this 
unpleasant subject by the memory of a domestic tragedy. 

"Harry sends me word that my old white cow is 4ead. Poor old soul ! 
She went to jump into Billy Bell s field, and encountered a ditch on the 
other side of the field, into which she fell, and out of which she never came 
alive. She got her head up-stream, dammed up the water, and, Harry 
thinks, drowned. Another motherless calf has mourned the loss of an 
ill-fated dam." 

March 5th. " I made a decided hit in the House to-day by reading the 
minority report in the Kansas election case. . . . You will of course see 
the report, and I need not inform you, I suppose, that I drew AVhitfield s 
paper, which is part of it. The report was all got up last night after ten 
o clock. I wrote until two o clock. The Committee, I mean the majority, 
acted like knaves. They would not let us see nor hear what to examine 
at all. I went it blindly, and wrote what you see under the circumstances 
related. I was gratified to see that what was so hastily done met with 
such favor. I tell you it was in the reading. I did that better than I ever 
did anything of the kind in my life." 

March 9th. Account of a dinner at a Mr. Sullivan s. 

" The only objection I have to dining with him is that he always gives 
his dinner on Sunday. But his company is generally select, and I have 
never seen anything at his table inconsistent with the quiet and decorum 
which are becoming to the day. Still, I do not like it." 



308 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 

Cobb and Ward had been invited to dine with him, but were 
going to the President s. 

" By the way, I have thought it a little strange that I have never yet but 
once been invited (and that when I was very ill, two months ago) to dine 
with Pierce, nor have I yet dined with a single member of his Cabinet. 
Whether I have been omitted by intention or from forgetfulness I do not 
know nor do I care. I only mention the fact as a singular one. It never 
occurred with any previous President, not excepting Polk or his Cabinet." 

In connexion with the dinners at Mr. Sullivan s, Mr. Stephens 
occasionally tells this anecdote : While the adjustment measures of 
1850 were pending there was a dinner at Mr. Sullivan s, on a 
Sunday as usual, at which Clay, Toombs, Hale, of New Hamp 
shire, and other prominent actors in the exciting discussions of 
the day were present. Mr. Hale was then in the Senate, and 
with all his talents was noted as something of a wag. In the 
course of conversation, Mr. Clay, with great earnestness, made 
an appeal to Hale to quit the agitation of the Slavery question. 
" No good," he said, " can come of it ; there is nothing practical 
or useful in it; it only tends to produce ill feeling and hinder 
the prosperity of the country." Mr. Hale, with an arch look, 
replied, " Mr. Clay, it sent me to the Senate, and I think there 
is something in that !" 

March llth. "I have just come from the House, where I spoke upon 
the Kansas election, on the motion to empower the Committee to send for 
persons and papers. I will give you no opinion of the speech, except that 
I did not disgrace myself, me judice. What the audience thought of it 
I shall be better able to judge when I see the papers. I received many 
compliments, but they are so cheap here I do not regard them as of much 
importance. I had a large audience ; the largest that has assembled since 
the House was organized ; galleries full and crowded. No other person has 
drawn anything like such a crowd. ... I got your letter this morning. 
It was greeted with pleasure. I was anxious to hear from you. Poor 
Rio ! my heart yearned for him. I tell you the truth, I almost wept when 
I read your account of his encounter with Bill Alexander s dog. Not that 
I felt great apprehension for llio s safety ; but I feel an interest in that 
dog that I never did in the inferior animals, and never shall in any again, 
I am certain. And the reason of it is mainly on account of his attachment 
and fidelity to me. I dream of him frequently." 

About the 1st of April Mr. Stephens went home, and returned 
to Washington on May 2d. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 3Q9 

June 13th. " The House did not sit to-day. Butler finished Ins reply 
to Simmer in the Senate. Sumner was not present, as I hear. Wilson, 
as I hear, took up the Massachusetts side of the vituperation, for debate 
it was not." 

June 14th. " We have some news here. Stringfellow has got to the 
city direct from Kansas. I have not seen him myself, but Toombs, who 
left me just now, saw him last night. Stringfellow is our main man 
in Kansas, you know. According to Toombs s report all things are now 
comparatively quiet there. The newspaper reports of burnings and civil 
war are unfounded, and got up by Northern agitators for effect. The 
hotel at Lawrence was presented by the grand jury as a nuisance, and 
ordered to be demolished as such. He says the investigations of the Com 
mittee will work in our favor greatly when published. The Committee 
will be here this w r eek. lie says they want no more men in Kansas ; they 
want no fighting; that all is working just as it ought. His account, in a 
few words, is better than I expected." 

On June 28th the question before the House was the bill 
providing for the admission of Kansas as a State, under what 
was called the " Topeka Constitution." This was a constitution 
drawn up by the Free-Soil Party, composed chiefly of the 
emissaries of the Emigrant Aid Societies, and it not only pro 
vided for the exclusion of slavery, but prohibited negroes or 
imilattoes from settling in the State. 

On this question Mr. Stephens addressed the House at con 
siderable length. He reviewed the manner in which the Kansas 
Bill had passed, and showed how false were the charges that 
a state of war existed in Kansas, or that what few disturbances 
had occurred \vere due to the Southern party there, or to the 
Kansas Bill. He showed how rumors were created, or facts 
exaggerated, to arouse popular feeling and create agitation at 
the North, for party purposes ; and how those who breathed fire 
and slaughter were really the Northern agitators, and no others. 
He then examined the bill before the House, and showed that 
the Topeka Constitution was framed in open opposition to law 
foy men with arms in their hands, who in no sense represented 
ithe bona-fide settlers of the Territory, the parties who, under the 
Kansas Bill, were the persons to determine the policy of the new 
I State with reference to slavery. Finally, he took up the ques 
tion of slavery itself, and compared the position of the negro in 
the South with his position in the North. In the former he had 



310 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

a recognized place, duties, and protection ; in the North he was 
" a nondescript outcast, neither citizen nor slave, without the 
franchise of a freeman or the protection of a master." In con 
clusion he said : 

11 Gradation is stamped upon everything animate as well as inanimate, 
if, indeed/ ihero l>e anything inanimate. A scale, from the lowest degree 
of inferiority to the highest degree of superiority, runs through all animal 
life. We see it in the insect tribes, we see it in the fishes of the sea, the 
fowls of the air, in the beasts of the earth, and we see it in the races of men. 
We see the same principle pervading the heavenly bodies above us. One star 
differs from another star in magnitude and lustre, some are larger, others 
are smaller, but the greater and superior uniformly influences and controls 
the lesser and inferior within its sphere. If there is any fixed principle or 
law of nature it is this. In the races of men we find like differences in 
capacity and development. The negro is inferior to the white^mJ^ ; nature 
has made him so ; observation and history, from the remotest nmes,"estab- 
lish the fact ; and all attempts to make the inferior equal to the superior are 
but efforts to reverse the decrees of the Creator, who has made all things 
as we find them, according to the counsels of His own will. The Ethiopian 
can no more change his nature or his skin than the leopard his spots. Do 
what you will, a negro is a negro, and he will remain a negro still. In 
the social and political system of the South the negro is assigned to that 
subordinate position for which he is fitted by the laws of nature. Our 
system of civilization is founded in strict conformity to these laws. ^Order 
and subordination, according to the natural fitness of things, is the prin 
ciple upon which the whole fabric of our Southern institutions rests. 

"Then as to the law of God. that law we read not only in His works 
about us, around us, and over us, but in that inspired Book wherein He 
has revealed His will to man. When we differ as to the voice of nature, 
or the language of God, as spoken in nature s works, we go to that gr< at 
Book, the Book of books, which is the fountain of all truth. To that 
Book I now appeal. God, in the days of old, made a covenant with the 
human family for the redemption of fallen man : that covenant is the 
corner-stone of the whole Christian system. Abram, afterwards called 
Abraham, was the man with whom that covenant was made. He was 
the great first head of an organized visible church here below. He be 
lieved God, and it was accounted to him for* righteousness. He was in 
deed and in truth the father of the faithful. Abraham, sir, was a slave 
holder. Nay, more, he was required to have the sign of that covenant 
administered to the slaves of his household." 

MR. CAMPBELL. " Pnge^rinp^a*-rJ^|e." 

MR. STEPHENS. " I have one here which iftie gentleman can consult 
if he wishes. Here is the passage, Genesis xvii. 13. God said to 
Abraham : 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 31 1 

" 13. He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs 
be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant. 

" Yes, sir ; Abraham was not only a slaveholder, but a slavedealer it 
seems, for he bought men with his money, and yet it was with him the 
covenant was made by which the world was to be redeemed from the 
dominion of sin. And it was into his bosom in heaven that the poor man 
who died at the rich man s gate was borne by anels, according to the para 
ble of the Saviour. In the 20th chapter of Exodus, the great moral law is 
found. that law that defines sin, the Ten Commandments, written by the 
linger of God Himself upon tables of stone. In two of these command 
ments, the 4th and 10th, verses 10th and 17th, slavery is expressly recog 
nized, and in none of them is there anything against it; this is the moral 
law. In Leviticus we have the civil law on this subject, as given by Gud 
t Moses for the government of His chosen people in their municipal affairs. 
In chapter xxv., verses 44, 45, and 46, I read as follows : 

" 44. Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be 
of the heathen that are round about you ; of them shall ye buy bondmen and 
bondmaids. 

" 45. Moreover of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of 
them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you, which they begat in your 
land: and they shall be your possession. 

\" And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit 
theittx for a possession ; they shall be your bondmen forever : but over your brethren 
the children of Israel, ye shall not rule one over another with rigour. 

" This Was the law given to the Jews soon after they left Egypt, for their 
government wlren they should reach the land of promise. They could have 
had no slaves then* It authorized the introduction of slavery among them 
when they should become established in Canaan. And it is to be noted 
that their bondmen and bondmaids to be bought, and held for a possession 
and an inheritance for their children after them, were to be of the heathen 
round about them. Over their brethren they were not to rule with rigor. 
Oor^Southern system is in.&trict conformity with this injunction. Men of 
our own blood and_our_own race, where ver.born, or. from whatever clime they 
comeT are free and equal. We have no castes or classes among white men, 
no upper t^njom^OT lower tendom. All are equals. Our slaves were 
takenTrom the heathen tribes, the barbarians of Africa. In our households 
they are brought within the pale of the covenant, under Christian teaching 
and influence ; and more of them are partakers of the benefits of the gospel 
than ever were rendered so by missionary enterprise. The wisdom of 
man is foolishness ; the ways of Providence are mysterious. Nor_ does 
the negro feel nny sensa-^g -degradfttion in his condition; he is \\niilf.ijraded. 
and-U& th& -same gj*ade or rank in society and the. State 



thjit Jie_ilues-4- th scale of being; it is his natural place; and all things 
nt_when nature s great first law of order is conformed to. 

" Again : Job was certainly one of the best men of whom we read in 



312 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

the Bible. lie was a large slaveholder. So, too, were Isaac and Jacob, 
and all the patriarchs. But, it is said, this was under the Jewish dispen 
sation. Granted. Has any change been made since ? Is anything to be 
found in the New Testament against it? Nothing, not a word. Slavery 
existed when the gospel was preached^ by Christ arid His Apostles, and 
where they preached : it was all around them. And though the Scribes 
and Pharisees were denounced -toy our Saviour for their hypocrisy and 
robbing widows houses, yet not a word did He utter against slave- 
holding. On one occasion He was sought for by a centurion, who asked 
Him to heal his slave, who was sick. Jesus said He would go ; but the 
centurion objected, saying, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest 
come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be 
healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me : and 
I say to this man, Go, and he goeth ; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; 

I and to my slave, Do this, and he doeth it. Matthew viii. 8, 9. The word 
rendered here servant, in our translation, means slave. It means just such 

\a servant as all our slaves at the South are. I have the original Greek." 

Here the hammer fell. Mr. Stephens asked that he might be 
permitted to go on, as long as the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. 
Campbell] had taken up his time. He had but a little more to 
say. Mr. Giddings, of Ohio, objected ; and what follows is the 
substance of what he intended to say, if he had not been cut off 
by the hour-rule. 



" The word in the original is (JovAo^ and the meaning of this word, as 
given in Robinson s Greek and English Lexicon, is this, I read from the 
book : In the family the dovho? wa s one bound to serve, a slave, and was 
the property of his master, "a living possession," as Aristotle calls him. 
And again : The om>Ao^ therefore, was never a hired servant, the latter 
being called pafliof, etc. This is the meaning of the word, as given by 
Robinson, a learned doctor of divinity, as well as of laws. The centurion 
on that occasion said to Christ Himself, I say to my slave do this, and he 
doeth it, and do Thou but speak the word, and he shall be healed. What 
was the Saviour s reply? Did He tell him to go loose the bonds that fet 
tered his fellow-man? Did He tell him he was sinning against God for 
holding a slave ? No such thing. But we are told by the inspired pen 
man that: 

" When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I 
say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto 
you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, 
and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom 
shall be cast out into outer darkness : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 
And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it 
done unto thee. And his servant [or slave] was healed in the selfsame hour. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 313 

"Was Christ a doughface ? Did He quail before the slave-power? 
And if He did not rebuke the lordly centurion for speaking as he did of 
his authority over his slave, but healed the sick man, and said that He had 
not found so great faith in all Israel as He had in his master, who shall 
now presume, in His name, to rebuke others for exercising similar author 
ity, or say that their faith may not be as strong as that of the centurion? 

In no place in the New Testament, sir, is slavery held up as sinful. 
Several of the Apostles alluded to it, but none of them not one of them 
mentions or condemns it as a relation sinful in itself, or violative of the 
laws of God, or even Christian duty. They enjoin the relative duties of 
both master and slave. Paul sent a runaway slave, Onesimus, back to 
Philemon, his master. He frequently alludes to slavery in his letters to 
the churches, but in no case speaks of it as sinful. To what he says in 
one of these epistles I ask special attention. It is 1st Timothy, chapter 
6th, and beginning with the first verse : 

" 1. Let as many servants [fioOAoi, " slaves," in the original, which I have before 
me] as are under the yoke [that is, those who are the most abject of slaves] count 
their own masters worthy of all honor, that the name of God and his doctrine be 
not blasphemed. 

" 2. And they that have believing masters, [according to modern doctrine, there 
can be no such thing as a slaveholding believer; so did not think Paul,] let them 
not despise [or neglect and not care for] them, because they are brethren ; but rather 
do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit. 
These things teach and exhort. 

u< 3. If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the 
words of our Lord Jeans Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ; 

" 4. lie is proud [or self -conceited,] knowing nothing, but doting about questions and 
strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil suruiisings. 

"<5. Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, sup 
posing that gain is godliness : from such withdraw thyself. 

" This language of St. Paul, the Great Apostle of the Gentiles, is just as 
appropriate this day, in this House, as it was when he penned it, eighteen 
hundred years ago. No man could frame a more direct reply to the doc 
trines of the gentleman from Ohio [Mr. Giddings] and the gentleman 
from Indiana [Mr. Dunn] than is here contained in this sacred book. 
What does all this strife, and envy, and railings, and civil war 1 in Kansas 
come from, but the teachings of those in our day who teach otherwise than 
Paul taught, and do not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our 
Lord Jesus Christ ? 

" Let no man, then, say that African slavery as it exists in the South, in 
corporated in and sanctioned by the Constitution of the United States, is in 
violation of either the laws of nations, the laws of nature, or the laws of God ! 

" And if it must needs be that such an offence shall come from this 
source as shall sever the ties that now unite these States together in fra 
ternal bonds, and involve the land in civil war, then wo be unto them 
from whom the offence cometh ! " 



314 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

On July 20th he writes to Linton : 

" This morning s mail brought me letters containing the sad intelligence 
that our only brother was no more on earth. I am truly overwhelmed with 
grief, and hardly know what to say or how to write to you on the subject. 
The truth is I can hardly realize the fact. . . . This day week I wrote him 
a long letter. That letter I am informed he did not live to read ; it reached 
his office the day after his eyes were sealed in death. And is it so that I 
shall never see his familiar face and form again ? ... It seems to me now 
that if I could recall any unkind word or look I may have given him, that 
it would afford me consolation. But this cannot be. I shall go home as 
soon as I can leave here. I did intend to go to New York next Saturday, 
but that is out of the question now. I was going there to make a speech 5 
but I do not now feel as if I could make any speech this summer. I must 
see after the family of my poor brother, and must do what 1 can to keep 
those most dear to him from want." 

Several following letters show how greatly he suffered at his 
brother s loss. He cannot think of him without tears. The 
family, he writes, must be kept together, at least for a while. 
" The bitter pangs attending the breaking up of a family I re 
member too well ever to advise a similar course when it can be 
prevented." 

Before the time of which we are now writing, a close friend 
ship had grown up between Linton Stephens and R. M. John 
ston, and they had been law-partners since the year 1854. 
This connection had led to a more intimate acquaintance with 
the elder brother; and it was in this year (1856) that the idea 
of preparing this biography was first conceived. From this 
time a correspondence was kept up with Mr. Stephens relating 
to the events of his life, from which we shall henceforth quote, 
as well as from that with Linton. 

The first letter of this series which we present was written 
at Washington, August 12th, 1856. In it Mr. Stephens thus 
alludes to the Presidential candidates of that year: 

" I see from the papers that the Fillmore men are trying hard to get up 
a movement in his favor ; but I cannot think it will amount to much. 
The people are putting the issues of the present canvass too much upon 
the past records of Fillmore and Buchanan. Old issues are past and dead. 
. . . The great question now is : how do those gentlemen stand upon the 
living issues of the day? Mr. Fillmore was and is against the Kansas 
Bill. Nearly all his friends at the North are for restoring the Missouri 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 315 

Restriction. Mr. Buchanan has approved that bill, and all his friends, 
North and South, are for maintaining its principles for all time to come. 
This is the question. The position of Mr. Fillmore and his party North, 
at present, is not much better for the South, on this question, than that of 
Fremont. The only difference between him and Fremont is that he is not 
so rank an Abolitionist in his tendencies and associations as Fremont. 
But so far as the Kansas Bill is concerned, I see but little difference 
between them. Fremont s election would bring into power such men 
as Hale, Wilson, and Co.. and hence is much more to be deprecated 
than the election of Fillmore. But Fillmore does not stand the ghost of 
a chance before the people. His only chance is in this Black llepublican 
House, and that is a slim one." 

The rest of the correspondence of this year which we shall 
quote is to Liuton. 

August 19th. " Much to my disappointment and annoyance, I am de 
tained here. An extra session has been called. It was a most unwise 
step, in my opinion. Indeed, I doubt if it has been the result of stupidity 
altogether. ... I do verily apprehend that Mr. Pierce is lapsing back 
into his original policy in regard to Kansas. I fear the cloven foot will be 
shown in his message. It will be part of my earnest efforts to prevent such 
a relapse if possible. But what is to come of this extra session the Ruler 
above, who shapes the destinies of nations, only knows. I must stay." 

August 22d. " We have just taken the final vote on the motion to lay 
on the table a motion to reconsider the vote of the House by which they 
had declared their adherence to their proviso scheme. The vote was 
9G to lay on the table to 95 against it. One vote against us. This is the 
end of the bill. . . . Seven more Southern men absent than Northern: 
that is, without pairing. If our men had stayed, we should have been 
triumphant to-day. On several votes we lost two to three Southern men 
who were too drunk to be brought in." 

August 23d. " We may reconsider on Monday our vote whereby we 
agreed to adhere to the proviso. And if so, we may get out of the woods. 
But I am enraged at the last vote. Rust, of Arkansas, was out, lost his 
vote. It seems impossible to keep Southern Representatives in their seats. 
About one-tenth of them need a master. If our men had all been here to 
day we should have beaten the enemy by a clear majority of three." 

On August 30th Congress adjourned. Mr. Stephens at the 
time was under medical treatment, and had to delay his de 
parture for a few days, anxious as he was to be at home. He 
writes on August 31st : 

" I get great numbers of letters from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, 
Illinois, urging me to go to those States ; but not a line from home. My 



316 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

intention is to go home as soon as I can get there. I do not like the tone 
of our Georgia papers. It makes me almost despair of the future of our 
section. rTTefjjusLe are doomed to divisions and factions!) I cannot believe, 
however, tnat the Fillrnore movement can result in anything more than in 
sowing seeds of mischievous divisions hereafter. ... I understand that 
the Republicans have spent five hundred thousand dollars on Pennsyl 
vania. These merchants of the North, who have grown rich out of us, 
are shelling out their money like corn now to oppress us j and yet thou 
sands, even of Georgians, would sing hosannahs at the triumph of our 



enemies 



Immediately upon his return, Mr. Stephens visited the family 
of his late brother, arranged for the settlement of his debts, 
and bought a house and lot in Crawfordville for the family. 

He entered into the political campaign with his usual energy. 
In the course of it an angry correspondence sprang up between 
him and Mr. B. H. Hill, which led to a challenge from Mr. 
Stephens. Mr. Hill, however, declined the challenge. 

December^ 15th. He writes from Washington : 

\ ..." I have been urging all the influences I could bring to bear upon 
^he Supreme Court to get them to postpone no longer the case on the Mis 
souri Restriction before them, but to decide it. They take it up to-day." 
[This was the famous -lired Scott case, decided March 6th, 1857.] " If 
they decide, as I have reason to believe they will, that the restriction was 
unconstitutional, that Congress had no power to pass it, then the question, 
the political question, as I think, will be ended as to the power of the 
people in their Territorial Legislatures. It will be, in effect, a res adjudicata. 
The only ground upon which that claim of power can then rest will be 
General Cass s Squatter Sovereignty doctrine ; that is, that they possess 
the power, not by delegation, but by inherent right ; and you know my 
opinion of that. 

December 30th. In his letter to his brother of this date, a 
faint foreboding, or rather the idea of a possibility, finds an 
expression, which, unlikely as it seemed, was to be realized long 
after. 

"If you," he says, "were to be called hence, my existence would be 
miserable indeed. I do not know how I could bear it. But if I were to 
be called, your lot would not be so bad. You have other reliances for 
support and sustainment. The thought that by possibility I may be de 
tained on the stage of action longer than you, fills me with the deepest 
gloom." 



CHAPTEK XXX. 

Adroit Strategy of the Kepublicans Their Eapid Growth The Dred Scott 
Case Speech on the President s Message Death of Mrs. Linton Ste 
phens Sad and Solemn Thoughts Remarks upon Pickpockets Mr. 
Douglas. 

THE year 1857 opened hopefully for the friends of Constitu 
tional Union. The passage of the Kansas Bill, the reduction of 
the tariff, and the election of Mr. Buchanan on a platform en 
dorsing the slavery adjustment of 1850, and the Territorial pol 
icy of 1854, all seemed to indicate a determination on the part 
of the people to reprobate the schemes of the agitators and dis- 
unionists, and maintain the Union on principles of justice and 
amity. Yet to the observant eye the future was full of danger. 
The agitators were indefatigable in action and inexhaustible in 
resources. Their opposition to the Territorial policy of Con 
gress had given them a taking popular cry, and a platform on 
which all could agree, and on which they had organized a com 
bination under the name of the Republican party, which, taking 
dexterous advantage of a fit of popular irritation against the 
Mormons, adroitly coupled Polygamy with Slavery as "twin 
relics of barbarism," and asserted the right of Congress to pro 
hibit both in the Territories. The Presidential election showed 
the rapid strides they were making. In 1844 the Abolitionists 
first put a candidate in the field for the Presidency, who received 
a popular vote of nearly 65,000, but no electoral vote. In 1848 
they again, under the name of Free-Soilers, nominated a candi 
date, who, it is true received no electoral vote, but polled a 
popular vote of nearly 300,000. In 1852 they fell off, polling 
only 156,000 votes, owing to the general satisfaction that was 
felt at the Compromise of 1850. But they counted safely on 
the irresistible power of persistent agitation. The election of 
1856 showed the startling result of an electoral vote of 114, or 

317 



318 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

eleven States, for the Republican candidates. It was easy to 
see that, though yet in the minority, this party was increasing 
with alarming rapidity, which, unless checked, would make it 
triumphant in the next election. The spirit of sectionalism, 
also^had borne its evil fruit; and already the alliance between 
the Constitutional parties of the North and South, the only 
barrier against disunion, was being weakened by jealousy and 
Suspicion. While their enemies formed a compact phalanx, 
unwearied in their exertions, these were growing careless, and 
beginning to divide into sections, each over-confident in itself 
and suspicious of its natural allies. The doctrines of Know- 
Nothingisni had also acted as a powerful solvent. On the whole, 
the situation, apparently hopeful, was full of peril, peril only 
to be averted by what was never to be obtained : a firm alliance 
of all, North and South, who desired justice to all, and the 
Rights of the States preserved in the Union, under a strict 
construction of the Constitution. 

We resume the correspondence with Linton : 

January 1st, 1857. u I send you my New Year s salutation. Eighteen 
hundred and fifty-seven is duly registered. When I gazed for the first 
time on the new-born this morning, it seemed to be snugly wrapped in a 
beautiful mantle of snow. . . . To-day I send you the speech of Curtis on 
the Dred Scott case before the Supreme Court. The speech I think chaste, 
elegantTTorensic ; but I do not think it convincing. The case is yet unde 
cided. It is the great case before the court, and involves the greatest 
questions, politically, of the day. I mean that the questions involved, let 
them be decided as they may, will have greater political effect and bearing 
than any others of the day. The decision will be a marked epoch in our 
history. I feel a deep solicitude as to how it will be. (T?rom what I hear, 
sub rosa, it will be according to my own opinions on every point, as ab 
stract political questions.";} The restriction of 1820 will be held to be un 
constitutional. The judges are all writing out their opinions, I believe, 
seriatim. The chief justice will give an elaborate one. Should this 
opinion be as I suppose it will, Squatter Sovereignty speeches will be 
upon a par with Liberty speeches at the North in the last canvass." 

January 3d. " I have the floor to make a speech on the President s mes 
sage. I suppose Tuesday will be as soon as I shall speak. Monday is 
Resolution-and-Humbug-Day generally. . . . The late election, its issues 
and its results, will be my theme." 

On January 6th he delivered- the speech before a House 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 319 

densely crowded, both floor and galleries, by an eagerly attentive 
audience. He began by alluding to the great crisis through 
which the country had passed, and its escape from immediate 
danger, and congratulating " the House, the country, and even 
you, Mr. Speaker,* against your will, upon our safe deliverance." 
He then refers to the political principles which had triumphed 
in the election of Mr. Buchanan on the Cincinnati platform, N 
the principle that " there shall be no Congressional prohibition- 
of slavery in the common territory," and the principle that 
" new States arising in the common Territories shall be admitted 
as States, either with or without slavery, as their inhabitants may 
determine." Alluding to the Kansas Bill, he took occasion to 
eulogize its Northern supporters ; for in the midst of his grati 
fication at the success just gained, he was not blind to the dan 
gers that still threatened, and he knew 4hat the only hope of ..the 
South in the Tin ion Iny in a firm alliance with the Constitutional 



"I know something, he says, "of the difficulties attending its passage 
[the Kansas Bill], the violence, the passion and fanaticism evoked against 
it. I well remember the opinions -then given, that the North would never 
submit to it ; and that the seats then filled by those who voted for it from 
that section, would never again be filled by men of like sentiments. By 
indignant constituencies such members were to be driven forever from the 
public councils. Forty-four members from the North in this House voted 
for the bill, only one of whom, I believe, acted with its enemies in the 
late struggle for its maintenance. To the present House, owing to causes 
that I need not mention, only eighteen were returned from that section in 
favor of it. This was matter of great boast at the time. But, sir, to the 
next House we have forty-nine members already chosen from the North 
at the late elections upon the distinct issue of their advocacy of this bill. 
This is five more than the number originally for it: the cause jrroj 
- weaker. ,_ This is one of the results of thelate election 



particularly gratifying to me in itself. It shows what men of nerve, with 
fidelity to the Constitution, relying upon the virtue, intelligence, loyalty, 
and patriotism of the people, can effect. Language would fail me in an 
attempt to characterize as they deserve those sterling and noble spirits 
who bore the Constitutional flag in the North against the popular preju 
dice and fanaticism of the people of their own section in this contest. 
" Sir, it is an easy thing for a man to drift along with the popular cur- 



* Hon. N. P. Banks. 



320 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

rent. Any man can do that. Honors thus obtained are as worthless as 
they are cheap ; but it requires nerve it requires all the elements that 
make a man to stand up and oppose men in their errors, and advocate 
truth before a people unwilling to hear and receive it to speak to those 
who having ears, hear not, and having eyes, see not. History furnishes 
some examples of this sort : but the history of the world, in my judgment, 
has never furnished nobler and grander specimens of this virtue than the 
late canvass in the North. When a man discharges his duty upon any 
occasion, he deserves respect and admiration ; but when a man discharges 
his duty against the prevailing prejudices of those around him, and even 
against Jhis own natural feelings and inclinations, that man commands 
something higher than respect and admiration. The elder Brutus, who 
sat in judgment and pronounced sentence against his own son, silencing 
the adverse promptings of a father s heart, made himself the noblest 
Roman of them all , and those statesmen at the North to whom I allude, 
who had the nerve, in the crisis just passed, to stand up and vindicate the 
right, under the circumstances in which they were placed, give to the 
world an instance of the niaml-siiblime in human action never surpassed 
before. Our history furnishes no parallel with it. They bore the brunt 
of the fight. To them the preservation of the Republic is due ; and if our 
Republic proves not to be ungrateful, they will receive patriots rewards, 
more to be desired than monuments of brass or marble, honored names 
while living, and honored memories when dead." 

/ After showing that the Kansas and Nebraska Bill, which the 
Northern agitators had denounced as an insult to their section, 
was framed in strict conformity with the Utah and New Mexico 
Bills and the settlement of 1850, he touches the topic of "squatter 
sovereignty/ 7 a name which had been given to the doctrine that 
the people of a Territory possess sovereign powers previous to 
their organization into a State, and independently of any action 
of Congress,* and shows that no such doctrine is implied in the 
Kansas Bill. He then proceeds thus : 

* The rational and logical doctrine, at least from an American point of 
view, would seem to be this, that any community has the right to change 
its form of government, and, if a territory, province, or other dependency, 
to organize itself into a sovereign and independent State ; and by such 
action and organization it does, ipso facto, so become. This is simply the 
universally-admitted right of revolution. Now if this action be forcibly 
resisted by the power of which it has declared itself independent, the ques 
tion, not of its independence, but of its ability to maintain that independ 
ence, comes to be tested, and if adversely decided, the new State lapses once 
more into dependency, and loses its sovereignty by the submission of its 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 321 

" But the practical point, looking to the probable prospect of any of 
these Territories becoming slave States, dwindles into perfect insignificance 
in view of the principle involved. That principle is one of Constitutional 
rigkLand equity. Its surrender carries with it submission to unjust and 
unconstitutional legislation, the sole object of which would be to array 
this Government, which claims our allegiance, in direct hostility, not only 
to our interests, but the very frame-work of our political organizations. 
Who looked to the practical importance of the Wilmot Proviso to the 
South in 1850, when it was attempted to be fixed upon New Mexico and 
Utah, with half so much interest as they did to the principle on which it 
was founded? It was the principle that was so unyieldingly resisted 
then. It was this principle, or the threatened action of Congress based 
upon it, which the whole South, with a voice almost unanimous, including 
the gentleman himself [Mr. II. Marshall, of Kentucky], then said, They 
would not and ought not to submit to!" 1 Principles, sir, are not only out 
posts, but the bulwarks of all constitutional liberty ; and if these be 
yielded or taken by superior force, the citadel will soon follow. A p^pjgle 
wjip would ..maintauaJheir :.. rights L must look to principles much more than 
to practical results. Thejmdependence of the United States was declared 
and established in the vindication of an abstractjmnciple. Mr. Webster 
never uttered a groat truth in simpler language for which he was so 
distinguished than when he said, The American Revolution was fought 
on a preamble. It was not the amount of the tax on tea, but the asser 
tion (in the preamble of the bill taking off the tax) of the right in the 
British Parliament to tax the colonies, without representation, that our 
fathers resisted ; and it was the principle of unjust and unconstitutional 
Congressional action against the institutions of all the Southern States of 
this Union that we, in 1850, resisted by our votes, and would have re 
sisted by our arms if the wrong had been perpetrated. Those from the 

people. But it it an error to suppose that revolution is of necessity accom 
panied by violence, or must be resisted by the supreme power. In the rela 
tions of the United States with their Territories, provision is expressly made 
for accomplishing this act of revolution peacefully, and indeed with encour 
agement. So soon as the population of a Territory have reached a certain 
numerical proportion they organize themselves into a State, and by so doing 
become a free, sovereign, and independent State. Their subsequent appli 
cation for admission into the Union of States is a voluntary act on the part 
of the new State; but it is the condition on which the United States agree 
to acknowledge the new State as an independpnt State. If this condition 
were not complied with, the United States would have the right to compel 
its observance by force, or use force to reduce the new State to its former 
Territorial condition. Thus the organization of a Territory into a sovereign 
State is a simple act of revolution ; a revolution to which no resistance is 
offered by the mother-country (the other States conjointly) provided certain 
conditions are complied with. k 

21 



322 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

South who supported the New Mexico and Utah Bills did so because this 
principle of Congressional restriction was abandoned in them. It was 
not from any confidence, in a practical point of view, that these Territories 
ever would be slave States. The great constitutional and essential right 
to be so if they chose was secured to them. That was the main point. 
This, at least, was the case with myself; for when I looked out upon our 
vast Territories of the West and Northwest I did not then, nor do I now, 
consider that there was or is much prospect of many of them, particularly 
the latter, becoming slave States. Besides the laws of climate, soil, and 
productions, there is another law not unobserved by me, which seemed to 
be quite as efficient in its prospective operations in giving a different char 
acter to their institutions, and that is the law of population. There were, 
at the last census, nearly twenty millions of whites in the United States, 
and only a fraction over three millions of blacks, or slaves. The stock 
from which the population of the latter class must spring is too small to 
keep pace in diffusion, expansion, and settlement with the former. The 
ratio is not much greater than one to seven, to say nothing of foreign im 
migration and the known facts in relation to the tardiness with which 
jiLave population is pushed into new countries and frontier settlements. 
(Hence the greater importance to the South of a rigid adherence to princi- 
pies on this subject vital to them. If the slightest encroachments of power 
are permitted or submitted to in the Territories they may reach the States 
ultimately. And although I looked, and still look, upon the probabilities 
of Kansas being a slave State, as greater than I did in the case of New 
Mexico and Utah.Qret I voted for the bill of 1854 with the view of main- 
taining the principle much more than I did to such practical results} As 
a Southern man, considering the relation wincn~The~ African benflfto the 
white race in the Southern States as the very_besi condition for tlie-grealest 
good of Jioth ; and as a national man, looking to the best interests .of the 
country, the peace and harmony of the whole by a preservation j?f the 
balance of power, as far as can be (for, after a^L, the surest check to 
encroachments is the inability to make them)^I should prefer to see 
Kansas come into the Union as a slave State; but it was not with tlje 

fview or purpose of effecting that result that I voted for the Kansas Bill, 
any more than it was with the view or purpose of accomplishing similar 
results as to New Mexico and Utah that I supported the measures of 1850. 
It was to secure the right to come in as a slave State, if the people there 
so wished, and to maintain a principle which I then thought, and still 
think, essential to the peace of the country and the ultimate security of 
the rights of the South." 

; After alluding to the misrepresentations of those opposed to 
he Kansas Bill, who had asserted that the question at issue was 
vhether Kansas should be a slave State or a free State, a con 
test between freedom and slavery ; whereas it really was the far 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER IL STEPHENS. 323 

more important question whether the people of Kansas had or 
( had not the right to determine the former question for theru- 
j selves, at the proper time, uuinterfered with by Congress, he 
(thus concludes : 

| " Its passage was not a triumph of the South over the North, further 
than a removal of an unjust discrimination against her people, and a 
>/ restoration of her constitutional equality maybe considered a triumph. 
To this extent it was a triumph; but njX-seetianal triumph. It^was a 
_ C, ^ tiTurn^h_of^ the Constitution. It was a triumph that enhanced the value 
y. ^eljth^UnionTnT the Estimation of the people of the South. The restriction 
of 182(Thad been for many years in the body politic as a thorn in the 
flesh, producing irritation at every touch. On the principles upon which 
it was adopted (reluctantly accepted as an alternative at the time by them) 
the South would have been, and was willing to acquiesce in and adhere to 
it in 1850. But it was then repudiated, again and again, by the North, as 
was shown by me in this House on a former occasion. The idea of its 
having been a sacred compact, or being in any way binding, was scouted 
at and ridiculed by those who have raised such a clamor on that score 
/since. This thorn was removed in 1850. The whole country seemed to 
j be relieved by it. It would have been completely relieved by it but for 
Vthejate attempt to thrust back this thorn. This attempt has been signally 
rebuked. And may we not now look to the future with hopes well- 
grounded hopes of permanent repose? Repose is what we want. With 
that principle now established, that each State and separate political 
community in our complicated system is to attend to its own affairs, with 
out meddling with those of its neighbors, and that the General Government 
is to give its care and attention only to such matters as are committed to 
its charge, relating to the general welfare, peace, and harmony of the 
whole, what is there to darken or obscure the prospect of a great and 
prosperous career before us? Men on all sides speak of the Union and 
its preservation as objects of their desire ; and some speak of its dissolu 
tion as impossible, an event that will not be allowed under any circum 
stances. To such let_jne__gny that-, f.hift TTnion can only be_ preserved by 
conforming to the laws of its existence. When these laws are violated, 
like aTl otheForgahisms, either political or physical, vegetable or animal, 
dissolution will be inevitable. The laws of this political organism the 
union of these States are well defined in the Constitution. From this 
springs our life as a people. If these be violated, political death must 
ensue. The Union can never be preserved by force, or by one section 
attempting to rule the other. 

"The principle on this sectional controversy, established in 1850, carried 
out in 1854, and affirmed by the people in 1856, I consider, Mr. Speaker, 
as worth the Union itself, much as I am devoted to it, so long as it is 
devoted to the objects for which it was formetT. And in devotion to it, so 



324 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

long as these objects are aimed at, I yield to no one. To maintain its 
integrity, to promote its advancement, development, growth, power, and 
renown, in accomplishing those objects, is my most earnest wish and 
desire. To aid in doing this is my highest ambition. These are the 
impulses of that patriotism with which I am imbued ; and with me 

All thoughts, all passions, all delights, 

Whatever stirs this mortal frame, 
All are but ministers of love, 
And feed this sacred flame. 

But the constitutional rights and equality of the States must be pre- 
| served/ 

January 1,5th. Mrs. Lin ton Stephens has been dangerously 
sick since the birth of her child. Alexander writes in great 
anxiety, and begs his brother to bear with patience whatever 
Providence may have in store. The letter thus closes : 

" May lie who rules over us and shapes our destinies guard and protect 
you, watch over and protect her who always puts trust in Him ! I write 
this in the House in the midst of confusion. I can only say, God be with 
you, and be merciful to you in sparing her who is so dear to you, and 
whose speedy recovery is my earnest desire and prayer." 

January 18jh. Mrs. Linton Stephens had died, and he had 
been informed of the death by a letter from a friend. 

11 1 do wish I had been there ; not only that I might have seen her once 
more in this life, but that I might have mingled my sorrow with yours, 
and thus have afforded you at least the small comfort of the sympathy of 
a heart not unused to the bitterest pangs that life can bear. Few mortals 
have suffered more than I have ; and few that see me and associate with 
me daily, have a conception of what torture and misery I endure. But 
of all the sufferings I have ever yet been subjected to, the loss of dear 
ones is the worst. This is like cutting the very heart-strings of life. I 
felt it on the death of our dear father, whose dead form now lies stretched 
before me in my mind s eye. Then my cup of grief was near running 
over. One more drop, and I should have sunk and died under it. I felt 
something of the same upon the death of my brother Grier. These were 
the most severe trials of my life. I have felt deep grief upon many other 
occasions 5 but on those, the very nerves of my life were touched. I have 
no doubt that you have felt, or do now feel, that deep agony of the soul 
that I then felt. Oh, how I sympathize with you, and how I wish I could 
be with you ! I think of you day and nigh. If I were not afraid of 
being detained on the road in exposure that would jeopard my life, I 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 305 

would go immediately to see you. But such is the condition of the roads, 
I fear to start. The appearance this morning indicates another snow 
before to-morrow. I to-day raised blood upon coughing. ... I want to 
see you and talk to you. But as this is impossible at present, let us 
commune as often on paper as we can. May Heaven watch over, guard, 
and protect you !" 

February 1st. Another long letter of condolence, concluding 
thus : 

" Mr. Toombs has just come in, and I must close. He feels deeply for 
you. In speaking of the death of Mr. Brooks the other day in the Senate, 
he broke out in weeping and had to stop. I never saw him shed tears be 
fore. His heart was full and ran over. He had heard the day before of 
sister Em s death, and it seemed to me then, when I told him, that it 
had a peculiar effect upon him. His whole soul seemed to be touched." 

About this time Mr. Stephens paid a visit to his bereaved 
brother, and there is a break in the correspondence. After his 
return he wrote very frequently, letters full of sympathy and 
consolation. Fearing lest Liu ton may let despondency prey 
upon him, as his letters seem to forebode, those of Alexander 
have a more decidedly religious cast, and the teachings and 
promises of the Christian faith are a frequent theme, and are 
urged upon his brother with a solemn and reverent tenderness. 
He once or twice alludes to his own severe and manifold trials, 
as in the following passage : 

" No mortal has ever had more reason to despair to curse his fate and 
die than I have had ; and few men, I imagine, have ever suffered more 
deeply and intensely. I have sometimes been on the very brink of despair : 
but I have borne all, and believe that I am better in consequence. Out of 
the very bitterest weeds of life I draw sweetness and consolation ; out of 
disappointments, crosses, and ills I extract comfort and hope. . . . The 
subject of the condition of the spirits of the dead, whether they are in a 
conscious state or not, whether or not they are permitted to look on and 
see what we the survivors are doing, was once a matter of most perplexing 
thought to me. But these are matters not intended for mortals to know ; 
and no good can come of thinking upon them. It is sufficient for me to 
be resolved that if the spirits of those most dear to me when living, who 
are now departed, do look on and see what I am doing, they will be grati 
fied at what I do or try to do. In my severest grief for the death of friends, 
the best consolation I ever had was the reflection that those friends would 
be pained to know that I was suffering so much on their account. This 
thought has checked many a sigh and tear. . . . Father told me, two nights 



326 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H< STEPHENS. 

before he died, that he thought he should die. We were alone, and he 
talked a long time with me. He enjoined upon me how I should act in 
case he died. All my energy came from those dying injunctions. At 
least in my greatest grief, a resolve to perform them was the ruling pas 
sion that prevailed. And it is a ruling passion with me yet. His memory 
I can never forget. And it seems to me that I should never have been 
happy since his death had it not been for the reflection that he would 
take pleasure in seeing me happy. And now again good-by. May God, 
the God of our common father, protect and sustain you and make you still 
useful and happy in your day and generation !" 

His brother seemed drawn even closer than before to his heart 
by this sorrow. His letters of sympathy never cease, whether 
he be at home or travelling. His thoughts, he says, by day and 
night, and even his dreams, are of his brother. On the 15th of 
June he writes : 

" I have no object on earth but you and your happiness to engross my 
mind. I am thinking of you nearly all the time. Business I have to 
attend to, but in business, at home or abroad, you are in my mind." 

This year Linton Stephens was again a candidate for Con 
gress, his opponent being the Hon. Joshua Hill. Alexander 
took a warm interest in his brother s canvass, and made several 
speeches, in his district. Linton, however, was beaten at the 
election by about the same majority as in 1855. 

Alexander left for Washington in the latter part of Novem 
ber, and while on the cars had his pocket-book stolen, containing 
some hundred and fifty dollars in money, and about twenty 
thousand dollars in promissory notes belonging to himself and 
clients. The book and papers were recovered in a few hours, 
but the money was gone. 

On November 29th he writes from Washington : 

" I called on Cobb, and found him well, and apparently in good spirits. 
He is to come round here to-night. The Administration have staked their 
all upon sustaining the Kffnsas Constitution, as it may be ratified. Walker 
is here} and is going to break with them. Forney will back Walker, but 
I hear of no other disaffection at present." 

December 1st. He again alludes to the loss of the pocket-book, 
in which, besides money and notes, there were several land- 
warrants belonging to poor constituents. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER If. STEPHENS. 327 

"I was truly lucky in recovering the pocket-book; and luckier still in 
not losing it before I had paid out the large amounts I had taken down 
with me. The truth is, I did not feel very uneasy about the papers. I 
felt sure they would not be destroyed. Those pickpockets, after all, are 
a downright clever honest sort of people in their way. They have no 
malice. They commit no wanton destruction of property. They take the 
money, that is all they are after. I have a sort of kindly feeling towards 
them, particularly since they saved me all my papers, including the land- 
warrants, that I had counted as a dead loss. . . . Everything here is in 
a better condition than I feared it would be. (The Administration is for 
the Kansas Constitution, and I think the Northern Democrats will gen 
erally be so too.). . . Orr will be Speaker. I have forbidden my name to 
be used in corfnexion with the office. Orr is for the Kansas Constitution, 
and on that line I am for organizing the House, with as much harmony 
as possible. The signs are now good ; but perhaps, like a bright May 
morning, the horizon may soon be closed in by clouds portending storm. 
I was glad to hear that old Mat [an old servant] was better. Poor old 
woman ! When I left, I thought she was low-spirited and rather hysteri 
cal." 

December J}ih. " I have seen Douglas twice. He is against us : decid 
edly, but not extravagantly, as I had heard. He puts his opposition on 
the ground that the Kansas Constitution is not fairly presented. He looks 
upon it as a trick, etc. His course, I fear, will do us great damage. The 
Administration say they will be firm. He and they will come into open 
hostility, I fear. ... I felt sanguine four days ago : now I hardly know 
what sort of feelings to indulge in. It is said that all Pennsylvania, New 
York, and Connecticut will stand firm, even against Douglas ; but I doubt." 

December 25tji. " This morning I got your letter of the 20th, the one 
in which you spoke of Rio, and told me he had been howling, off and on. 
all the evening. Poor dog ! How that news affected me ! I wonder if 
he was howling for his master. if he was grieving for my absence. The 
thought that he might be touched me deeply, and made me sad. I have 
been sad all day. . . . Mr. Toombs reached here this morning. He called 
up soon ; but notwithstanding all his hilarity and flow of spirits, I could 
not drive off the melancholy which the thought of my poor dog s howling 
for me produced." 



CHAPTEE XXXI. 

Kansas again Walker the Filibuster Interview with the President " A 
Battle-Royal" Defection of Southern Know-Nothings A Hard Struggle 
Intense Anxiety Kansas Bill passes both Houses Speech on the 
Admission of Minnesota A Bird of Ill-omenBritish War-Steamer 
Styx A Reception at Athens The Orator in a Panic A Summer Tour 
No Desire for the Presidential Nomination Visit to President Buch 
anan. 

IN December, 1857, Kansas had applied for admission as a 
State under what was called the Lecompton Constitution. In 
the formation and ratification of this the Free-Soil partisans in 
the Territory had taken no part, their plan being to form a sepa 
rate constitution in conformity with their views. The admission 
of Kansas under the Lecompton Constitution, the expedition 
sent to enforce the execution of the laws in the Territory of 
Utah, popularly known as the Mormon War, and Walker s 
filibustering movements in Nicaragua, were the topics of interest 
and excitement in the early part of this session. 

On January 3d, 1858, he writes to Lin ton : 

" We have no news. The Walker and Paulding imbroglio just now 
embarrasses us. Our sympathies are all with the filibusters. We do not 
agree with the Administration on this Central American question ; but if 
we denounced it as we feel it deserves to be, we endanger their support of 
our views of the Kansas question. This we fear. The strength of that 
question in the North lies in its being an Administration measure ; but if 
we of the South oppose the Administration on one question, it affords a 
pretext for men of the North to oppose it on another, and yet be good party 
men. In this way the question embarrasses us. . . . We meet to-morrow, 
and shall have a great deal of steam and gas let off, I expect, upon all 
sorts of questions. At present our count on the Kansas question is : two 
from Connecticut, ten from New York, three from New Jersey, twelve 
from Pennsylvania, three from Indiana, two from Ohio, one from Illinois 
thirty-three in all, enough to carry it in the House if all the South vote 
with us, and seven to spare. It is safe in the Senate." 

January 20th. " I never had so much work hard work to do before. 
328 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 329 

I am at it night and day. I seldom get to bed before twelve and one 
o clock, and am up at half-past seven. I am wearing out. I wish I had 
not consented to come here. I see but little good I can do. I am opposed 
to most of the policy, as far as I can perceive it, of the present Adminis 
tration. The Walker-Paulding affair I look upon as a great outrage. In 
my late letter to you, I believe I said that I could not afford to quarrel 
with them at present. But when I saw what they were doing I could not 
keep my mouth closed, but I kept back my wrath. The reason of their 
line of policy and opposition to Walker was their hostility to his enterprise 
because if successful he would introduce African slavery there. This is 
the whole upshot of the business. It is the object of this Government, in 
conjunction with the British, to prevent any colony or state arising in 
Central America on the basis or status of the Southern States." 

February 3d. " My interview with the President took place last night 
at the appointed time. I think it fortunate for him, in some respects, that 
he sought it. He submitted his message to me, which was sent in yester 
day. At my suggestion he made three very important modifications, I 
think. I insisted on his making another, which he declined to do. This 
is the only real or solid objection I have to the message as it now stands, 
that is, the opinion expressed that by the Kansas Bill the Slavery ques 
tion was to be submitted to the popular vote. That is a great error ; but 
he had sworn that the horse was fifteen feet high, and he must needs 
stand to it. I am fully persuaded that if I had had an interview with him 
on that first message before it was sent in, that error would never have 
been committed. This I am led to believe from his general bearing. On 
all the other points he seemed quick to take an idea and perceive its force, 
and as readily yield to it as any man I ever conversed with. The conclu 
sion I came to is that Mr. Buchanan really means to do right. What he 
most needs is wise and prudent counsellors. He is run down and worn 
out with office-seekers, and the cares which the consideration of public 
affairs has brought upon him. lie is now quite feeble and wan. I was 
struck with his physical appearance ; he appears to me to be failing in 
bodily health. 

" We have now the Kansas question in full blast. The vote will be 
close. A sort of test-vote was taken in the House yesterday on the motion 
to adjourn. We lost it by four, three Southern men out of their seats. 
Had they been in their places, where they ought to have been, the Speaker 
would have brought it to a tie. As it was, the apparent strength of the 
opposition on the first skirmish emboldened and encouraged them, and 
caused our Northern friends to tremble in their knees. I have been more 
provoked at the course of Southern men on this Kansas question from the 
beginning than upon any other subject in my public career. I mean their 
culpable negligence." 

February 5th. " I fear we shall be beaten on the admission of Kansas. 
The Northern Democrats do not stand up as they have been counted ; and 



330 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

our mean Southern men will not stay in their places. Last night we had 
a battle-royal in the House. Thirty men at least were engaged in the 
fisticuff. Fortunately, no weapons were used. . . . Nobody was hurt or 
even scratched, I believe ; but bad feeling was produced by it. It was the 
first sectional fight ever had on the floor, I think ; and if any weapons had 
been on hand it would probably have been a bloody one. LA11 things here 
are tending to bring my mind to the conclusion that the Union cannot or 
will not last lorFg. T *) 

The letters of this period have frequent references to his health, 
which was very bad ; and his mental depression combined with 
his bodily ailments to make him wish himself safe out of the 
turmoil and trouble, where, as he said and thought, he was 
" making a useless sacrifice of himself for nought, and nought 
only." 

" I am wearing out rny life for nothing. To mix daily w r ith men who 
have no patriotism, and no object but their own little selfish ends, is dis 
gusting to me. If the admission of Kansas is carried, I shall be done w r ith 
politics. It is a business I take no pleasure in. ... I have done my part. 
Some other must take my place. The rest of my life, whether long or 
short, I wish to spend in quiet retirement and uninterrupted solitude. 
Physical pains I am used to : mental pains as well. No change can in 
crease either. My fortitude, I trust, will never fail me in whatever may 
await me in the future. ... If the South would but have the right sort 
of men here, there would not be the least difficulty. We should carry the 

JL^compton Constitution, and achieve the greatest triumph in our history. 

; But patriotism is defunct, public virtue is gone, integrity is gone, or at 

V least all these high qualities are fast dying out." 

March llth. "Last night our Committee of fifteen agreed upon a report. 
I drew it up and submitted it. The labor of drawing up the report was 
nothing compared with that of looking after the members of the Commit 
tee and getting them to be present and ready to sustain it. I do not be 
lieve another man, in the House or outside, would have done it. But I 
succeeded. I wished to offer it next day in the House, but our side thought 
it best to wait on the minority. I agreed to do so for a w r eek, and did 
wait a week until yesterday. The minority was not ready. I then pre 
sented the report, which could be carried only by unanimous consent. 
That was not given, and I had it printed. All the time I had urged the 
Democrats to keep in their places ; for I expected Harris to spring some 
question in the House. To-day he did this by raising what he called a 
question of privilege, alleging that a majority of the Committee had not 
executed the order of the House. This was to keep the report from ever 
being made. The Speaker decided, very properly, that it was not a ques 
tion of privilege. But with a majority they could overrule the decision of 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 331 

the Chair. He moved a call of the House. But in the call of the roll 
there were twenty-two Democrats Lecompton men absent, and only five 
anti-Lecornpton. Thirteen of the twenty-two were from the South. Had 
they been present we should have saved the question. How shamefully 
the South is represented ! Some of the Southern men were too drunk to 
be got into the House. We got a postponement of the question until 
to-morrow. In the vote to-day II. Marshall and all the Maryland Know- 
Nothings voted with the Republicans. ... I amjvery apprehensive that 
we shall be beaten, but it will be by the South.<^J[jim almost overwhelmed 
with mortification to think that the deed will be done by our own people. 
My heart is sad sad sad. . . . If we sho"^ aqpamtp, wh-if is <-r> 
of jig in the hands of such representatives? Have we any future but mis- 
eraTTe petty MjimLiblus, pail ms, filULlo ns, and Fragments of organizations, 



led on by contemptible drunken demagogues? My country what is to 
become of it ! It is the idol of my life. Her glory, her prosperity, her 
welfare, happiness and renown. Perhaps it is too much my idol ; but it 
has been the absorbing object of my life s ambition 5 and yet all is, I fear, 
about to be blasted." 

Marsh 12th. " We had a fight again in the House not fisticuffs, but 
parliamentary on Harris s appeal from the decision of the Speaker. As 
usual, we lost the question by the absence of two Southern votes : Branch, 
of North Carolina, and Caruthers, of Missouri. Clarke, of New York, a 
good Kansas man, has the small pox, and could not be there. Luck seems 
to be against us. We had all our other men there to-day except those 
paired. Some were so drunk they had to be kept out until they were 
wanted to say ay or no, as the case might be. The worst thing about 

it to-day was that H. paired off with Me , of California, who would 

have voted with us on that question, which I think H. knew. Had he not 

made that pair, and voted with us, as Me would have done, we should 

have succeeded. I fear II. intended to follow H. Marshall, but being afraid 
to do it openly, skulked behind a pair" 

March 19th. " I am very apprehensive that the admission of Kansas 
under the Lecompton Constitution will fail. The Southern Americans 
J Know-Nothings], I fear, will abandon us in mass. If so, all is lost. The 
great fight will come off in the House next Monday or Tuesday, when the 
Senate Bill will come in. The tactics of the opposition will be to defeat 
the bill without a direct vote. They will move to refer it to the Select 
Committee of fifteen. That being a select committee, under the ruling it 
can never report until all the Committees are called. This can easily be 
prevented during the whole session, so the question cannot again be 
brought forward. The Southern Americans will all, I fear (or enough 
of them), vote for this reference, knowing its effect, while they would per 
haps not dare to vote against the bill. This gives me great uneasiness by 
day and night. I was never so much worn with care and anxiety in my 
life." 



332 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

April 2d. " We lost the Senate Bill for the admission of Kansas in the 
House yesterday. This was as I expected. Six Southern Americans 
defeat3d us. Twenty-nine Northern Democrats stood firm. Had all the 
Southern members stood firm also, our majority with a full House would 
have been eight. 

"I am not yet without hope that the Senate will yet recede from the 
substitution of Crittenden s bill for the Senate Bill. If so, we may yet 
succeed over the Republican and Know-Nothing alliance which defeated 
us yesterday. But on this point I am not so hopeful now as I was yester 
day. Northern men now begin to say that they cannot fight Republicans 
and Southern men both in defence of Southern rights." 

April 7th. " The Senate will return us the Kansas Bill with its non- 
concurrence in the House substitute to-day. To-morrow we shall take a 
vote on receding or adhering. Our side will be beaten on the vote. We 
may be able to get a conference asked by the House, but I doubt that. If 
we do, that will be what our side will be better satisfied with than a vote 
to adhere. If we adhere, the bill will go back to the Senate, and they 
will ask a conference. Then it will come back. I think we shall then 
agree, if not before, to a committee of conference. I cannot predict, but 
will venture the opinion that nothing will be agreed upon but a recom 
mendation that the House recede. Then will come the decisive tug of 
war. ... I am still hopeful, but not sanguine. Good-by. I have worked 
hard, worn out myself in the cause of my country. If I succeed, I shall 
greatly rejoice on her account.V Tf I fail, the bitterest feeling I shall 
suffer will arisejroni the fact thaTTTie failure ensued from the defection 
of Southern men./ 

On the 17th of April, Mr. Stephens thus wrote to R. M. J. : 

" I have been overwhelmed with business. My time is taken up, day 
and night, with the absorbing question of the admission of Kansas. I am 
now on the Committee of Conference.* I am sick, besides, and yet am 
compelled to be up to give audience to all sorts of views and suggestions. 
... If we can get a recognition of the principle we have been contending 
for, the right of the State to come in with slavery, or without objection on 
that score, it is ail I can hope for." 

April 26th. " My room has been crowded all day and night with friends. 
The theme was the Kansas question, and the report of the Committee of 
Conference. The vote on it is still in great doubt. ... I am now in my 
seat before the House meets, interrupted every minute by inquiries as to 
what is the prospect. I am exceedingly harassed, but am as patient as 
Job. Never did man work harder or effect more than I have done in this 
matter. The whole labor has been on myself. The most disagreeable re 
flection attending the whole subject to me is, that all may be for nought, 
and that we may ultimately fail. This is now my serious apprehension." 

* Mr. Stephens was head of the House Committee of Conference. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 333 

April 29th. ..." The tide of battle every day ebbs and flows like 
that of the sea. So uncertain and fickle is man, yes, even grave members 
and Senators. In proportion to the number, there are more fools in Con 
gress than in any constable s beat in Taliaferro County. Since the report 
of the Conference Committee there have been several periods when we could 
have carried it, if we could have got a vote, by a majority of eight; and 
I should not be surprised if we should finally lose it by a greater one." 

May 1st. The bill reported by the Committee of Conference 
for the admission of Kansas as a State, passed both Houses on 
April 30th. In the lower House it was carried by a majority of 
thirteen, the same numerical majority by which the Kansas- 
Nebraska Bill had passed in 1854. Mr. Stephens, referring to 
its passage, writes : 

" Every Southern Democratic Senator present voted for it. Jefferson 
Davis had himself sent for to record his vote for it. He is in very bad 
health, has been extremely ill. I took the paper to him and got his ap 
proval of it before I would agree to report it. This is the way I worked 
the matter with all the leading men from the South." 

After discussing the merits of the Conference Bill, which he 
prefers to the original Senate Bill, he continues : 

" I had a discussion in the House the other day with II. Winter Davis 
on this Conference Bill. My remarks were impromptu : I had no idea of 
his making a speech, and no idea of replying to him until a few minutes 
before he closed. I never made a speech in the House that seemed to 
please my friends better. The speech reported as Davis s in the Globe is 
not the speech he made. That he wrote out afterwards, and in it he has 
tried to anticipate and evade the force of the points I made on him. He 
has also corrected and interlined sentences in his remarks in the running 
debate between us, which greatly weaken the apparent force of the points I 
made on him, when taken into connection with the speech as he has it 
going before. This is unbearable, if there were any way to prevent it. The 
plan of reporting in the Globe is abominable : the whole system is a 
nuisance. In Davis s first speech as he made it, he broadly denied and 
challenged the production of a case, since the admission of Missouri, when 
a State had been admitted on a condition. He was so completely and 
thoroughly used up, that the House was several times in a roar of laughter 
and applause. 

" I want to go home soon. I feel it necessary to recruit my health. I 
am worn out." 

On the llth of May, Mr. Stephens addressed the House on 



334 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

the bill for the admission of Minnesota. Several objections had 
been made, the chief of which, and that to which Mr. Stephens 
especially addressed his reply, being the assertion that the con 
stitution of Minnesota was in conflict with that of the United 
States, in permitting persons other than citizens of the United 
States to vote at State elections. To this Mr. Stephens replied 
that on the question of the admission of a State into the Union, 
Congress had only the right to inquire whether. its constitution 
was republican in form, and whether it fairly expressed the 
will of the people. If any parts of her constitution were at 
variance with the Constitution of the United States, they were 
overruled by that Constitution ; but that this was a matter to 
be determined, not by Congress, but by the proper judicial 
authority, whenever a conflict arose. From this point he passed 
to the more important question of the rights of the States to 
determine, each for itself, the qualifications of their own voters 
at State elections. This was a right which had never been 
delegated to the General Government, and therefore, by the 
express words of the Constitution, it was reserved to the people 
of the several States. This right he showed had been recognized 
by numerous acts of Congress, coining down from the very 
formation of the Government. 

Here he answered an argument of Mr. Davis, of Maryland, 
who, taking the decision of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott 
case, in which the chief justice had said that the words " people 
of the United States" in the Constitution were synonymous 
with " citizens of the United States/ 7 had ingeniously coupled 
this with part of a clause in the Constitution in which that 
instrument appoints that the Representatives shall be chosen 
by the " people of the several States. 77 Mr. Davis s argument, 
if it can be called such, was, that " people of the several States" 
was the same thing as " people of the United States," and that 
as these, by the decision of the Supreme Court, were "citizens 
of the United States," it followed that the admission of any 
but citizens of the United States to vote for Representatives 
was unconstitutional. Mr. Stephens simply pointed 6ut that he 
had taken just so much of the clause in question as seemed to 
bear him out, and had left out the rest, which completely de- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 335 

stroyed his argument. For the clause, after appointing that 
Representatives in Congress shall be chosen "by the people of 
the several States," proceeds, " . . . and the electors in each 
State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the 
most numerous branch of the State Legislature," thus explicitly 
leaving the States to fix the requisite qualifications, as un 
restrictedly as in the case of their own Legislatures. 

He then commented upon the decision of the Supreme Court 
in the Dred Scott case, in which it was decided that persons of 
African race, slaves or descendants of slaves, formed no part 
of the original aggregate of persons called "people," or "citizens 
of the United States" ; that no State laws could confer that 
citizenship upon them ; but that the State could confer upon 
them the privilege of suffrage within its own limits, and no 
more. From this decision Mr. Stephens conclusively argued 
that Minnesota might confer upon persons who were not citizens 
of the United States the rights of State-citizenship, and with 
the rest the right to vote for members of the State Legislature 
and for Representatives in Congress, without violation of the 
Constitution of the United States. 

May 14th. " When I received your letters I was thinking of this day 
thirty-two years ago. It was on that day your mother followed our 
common father to the world of spirits, leaving you, as I was left before, 
an orphan in the complete sense of the word, a helpless child, without 
father or mother. The day you have perhaps no recollection of 5 but 
well do I recollect it. It was the consummation of my woes at that 
period of my life ; that was the day on which the fate of our little family 
circle was sealed. Soon we were scattered ; and never did the family 
hearth blaze in cheerfulness again. A few nights before my heart almost 
sank within me on hearing the screams of an ill-omened bird, a raven 
it must have been, which came near the house on the hill to the south 
west, perched, I think, upon the mulberry that still stands there. Ben 
said, when he heard the croaking of the nightly messenger, that it was 
the sign of death. His remark sank deep into my soul. I have never 
heard such a bird before or since, and what kind of a bird it was I do not 
know. You may set this down to a sprinkling of superstition in my 
nature ; I will plead guilty. . . . 

"Whether the Conference Bill be right or wrong, I am responsible for 
it. I will give you the history of it when I see you." 

Another "sprinkling of superstition" appears in the letter 



336 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

of May 23d, which gives an account of a dinner at Mr. Toombs s, 
the party being thirteen in number. 

u The number Avas an unlucky one, and I felt some uneasiness when 
sitting down to the table, which was increased by a sudden and violent 
attack of illness of one of the party." 

Mr. Stephens had been expecting to go home after the de 
cision of the Ohio contested election case, Vallandigham and 
Campbell, in which he took a strong interest in favor of the 
former. The decision w r as in favor of Vallandigham ; but 
he concluded now to stay to the end of the session. 

About this time considerable irritation was felt in the country 
at the action of the officers of the British war-steamer Styx, then 
cruising in the Gulf, a for the suppression of the slave-trade/ 
who had brought- to, boarded, and searched a number of 
American vessels. The matter was brought before Congress, 
and was the subject of some correspondence between the Secre 
tary of State and the British Minister at Washington. Mr. 
Stephens was indignant at the affair, and writes : 

" I feel deeply enraged at the course of the British cruiser in the Gulf. 
I have urged the President to send down naval force sufficient, and bring 
in the Styx and all other like craft, dead or alive. I would not ask any 
reclamation from England for such insults ; but I would seize her ships, 
if necessary, and explain myself afterwards." 

June llth. This is an eventful day. He has bought him a 
pair of spectacles, on which he moralizes much in the strain of 
the melancholy Jaques : 

"Thus life passes away; time rolls on, years troop by, leaving their 
foot-prints in wrinkles in the face, gray hairs on the head, and dimmed 
vision in the eyes. In a few more years, loss of teeth, bending shoulders, 
and trembling limbs will close the scene." 

In July of this year Mr. Stephens paid a visit to Mr. Johns 
ton at Athens. One evening while he was at the house of the 
President, Dr. Church, a message was received that the students 
with a band of music were at Mr. Johnston s gate, desiring to 
pay their respects to Mr. Stephens. The latter was extremely 
embarrassed by the news, and intimated an intention to avoid 
the proposed honors by remaining where he was. This the com- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 337 

pany would not hear of: he was almost carried off by force; and 
on reaching the house, strange as it may seem, the veteran 
orator was seized with a panic of embarrassment at the idea of 
addressing a party of students ! He took refuge in Mr. Johns 
ton s study, and while there seemed to be looking about for an 
opportunity to escape by flight. " I will not speak." " You 
must speak : the boys will not go away without a speech." " I 
can t speak. I don t know what to say." u Say anything." 
He rushed about the room and rubbed his head. " I have 
nothing to speak about. Give me a subject, and I can talk all 
night; but I can t speak about nothing!" His embarrassment 
would have been amusing if it had not been so painfully ex 
treme. The music ceased, and then arose the cry, " Stephens ! 
Stephens !" There was no help for it. He went to the door, 
as reluctantly as a criminal to the block, and made a short ad 
dress, which it may be presumed was satisfactory, as it was loudly 
applauded. 

In August, Mr. Stephens went with his brother on a tour 
through the Northwest for the benefit of his health, which had 
been seriously impaired by the fatigues of the session. During 
this summer the contest took place in Illinois between Mr. 
Douglas and Mr. Lincoln, rival candidates for the Senatorship. 
Mr. Buchanan s Administration had broken with Douglas on his 
refusal to support its policy for the settlement of the Kansas dif 
ficulties. Mr. Stephens, notwithstanding his firm adherence to 
that policy, refused to part from Douglas, and thought the hos 
tility to him both unwise and unjust. This refusal rendered 
him an object of suspicion to the Administration, which, strange 
to say, lent its influence to the election of Mr. Lincoln. 

In the course of this summer tour Mr. Stephens spent some 
time in Chicago, especially for the purpose of seeing the artist 
Healy, and having painted portraits of his brother and his 
brother s deceased wife. On his return he found that the Ad 
ministration papers in Georgia had been criticising his move 
ments, and attributing to his Illinois tour the purpose of helping 
Mr. Douglas in the canvass. These charges were uttered pretty 
freely, especially by the friends of Governor Cobb, who was 
looked upon as Mr. Buchanan s choice for the succession, and 

22 



338 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

who was especially hostile to Mr. Douglas s election. On Mr. 
Stephens^ return he wrote a long letter to Mr. Johnston, from 
which the following extract is taken : 

Crawfordville, September 3d. " We got home safely, and in time for our 
court. My health has been considerably benefited. I was a little annoyed 
when I returned and found that our newspapers had got into such a muss 
about the purpose of my visit to Illinois. I was really provoked at their 
ill-grounded surmises and unjust suspicions, charging political motives 
and personal objects in forming political combinations, but I don t care a 
button for it now. Politics had nothing in the world to do with my travels, 
and I had as little as possible to do with politics. I was, in reality, run 
ning away from the subject. I was in quest of rest and relaxation, and, 
as far as possible, eschewed even the mention of the theme in conversation. 
When my opinion was asked I gave it ; as I always have done and always 
shall. I did not hesitate to say in Ohio and Illinois and everywhere just 
what I said at home and in Athens before I left, that I should prefer to 
see Douglas elected to Lincoln, and I thought the war of the Washington 
Union on him ought to cease. I did not say that I considered it a wick 
edly foolish war ; but I did say that I thought it an unw r ise and impolitic 
war. This is my deliberate judgment ; and it is perfectly immaterial with 
me \vho approves it and who disapproves it." 

At this time Mr. Stephens began to be spoken of in many 
sections of the country as a possible candidate for the Presidency, 
and he was regarded with increasing jealousy by those who 
cherished hopes of the Democratic nomination for 1860. But, 
as we have seen from his confidential letters to his brother, he 
had no such ambition. He was growing heartily sick of polit 
ical life, sick of rolling up the stone of Sisyphus which kept 
forever rolling back, sick with the mental and the physical 
exertions his duties required, and sick at the prospect for the 
country. In December he returned to Washington, whence he 
writes on December 7th : 

" Cobb called on me Saturday night. He is exceedingly bitter against 
Douglas. I joked him a good deal, and told him he had better not fight, 
or he would certainly be whipped ; that is, in driving Douglas out of the 
Democratic party. He said that if Douglas ever w r as restored to the con 
fidence of the Democracy of Georgia, it would be over his dead body, 
politically. This shows his excitement, that is all. I laughed at him, 
and told him he would run his feelings and his policy into the ground." 

December 8th. "On my way from Georgetown I called at the White 
House, and made my bow to the President. He looked well ; that is, in 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 339 

good health, but did not seem much inclined to talk. I suppose he has 
an idea that I am against him, because I am not against Douglas s re 
election to the Senate. 

" I have been a little provoked. The circumstance was this : Mudd, 
whom I believe you know, called to see me. He said he had just had 
a discussion about me. It was with Junius Hillyer, and about iny 
being the next Democratic candidate for the Presidency. He gave me 
the particulars of the conversation. It had been commenced by Hillyer 
asking him about Cobb s prospects. Then, in speaking of Georgia, on 
Mudd s asking him what Cobb s chances would be in his own State, he 
said that I was figuring for it, or wanted it, or something to that purpose, 
which was new to Mudd. But Hillyer insisted on it that I was. But 
this was not all. Mudd went into Clayton s room, and Clayton asked 
him if I had come or if he had seen me. Mudd said he had barely seen 
me at the House, but had had no conversation with me ; whereupon Phil 
said, Stephens is intensely Douglas, and went on in this strain. Now 
after the long, frank, candid talk I had had with Cobb on Saturday night 
(Clayton being present), I did feel almost offended at hearing that he 
should talk thus about me. I told Mudd I would take it as a favor if he 
would in person say to Hillyer, and to all others who might in his 
presence take a like liberty in the use of my name, that I told him to 
say that I would just as lief be put upon a list of suspected horse-thieves 
as to be considered in the number of those who were aspiring or looking 
to the probabilities or chances of ever being President. I looked upon all 
such with feelings of great pity, commingled with contempt ; and I should 
loath myself if I felt conscious of such a spirit taking possession of my 
breast. This is about the substance of what I told him, and I was in 
earnest in what I said. I do wish an end put to all such use of my name. 
I have had it alluded to several times since I have been here, greatly to 
my annoyance. Perhaps Old Buck to-day thought I was an insidious 
rival, slyly worming myself into his place, or trying to do it. If so, alas ! 
poor old fellow ! How his views would change if he did but know how I 
pitied him, as I looked upon him, with all his power!" 



CHAPTEK XXXII. 

A Mysterious Confidence Overwork A Toung Protegee Ophthalmic 
Surgery The Blind Dog s Guide Busts of Mr. Stephens The Mariner 
in Port Linton on the Bench Home Troubles Farewell Dinner of 
fered Him by Congress Public Dinner at Augusta A Farewell Speech 
Warning to President Buchanan A True Prophecy Canine Psy 
chology Address at the University of Georgia Law Business A Kule 
adopted Plans for the Future. 

EARLY in December, 1858, Linton Stephens came to Washing 
ton, where he represented the State of Georgia in a suit between 
that State and Alabama before the Supreme Court of the United 
States, touching a question of boundary. The correspondence, 
therefore, ceases until his return. On the 25th Mr. Stephens 
wrote him a letter, which has been destroyed, but the following 
extract from Linton s reply will show a part of its purport : 

" You maybe right in your opinion that you have succeeded in keeping 
to yourself the secret of a misery that has preyed upon you, and yet preys 
upon you. The fact has long been known to me, for you have several 
times written it to me, though you have never mentioned it in conversation. 
The cause of it you have never communicated to me, but I do not doubt 
that I know it. I may be wholly mistaken ; and I have never asked you 
a question about it to settle any doubt I might have, for several reasons. 
I look upon it as a key to your character. If I am right, I comprehend 
your character and feelings far better than you seem to think ; if I am 
wrong, I don t understand you at all. In my judgment it is the founda 
tion of your highest virtues, and the source of your greatest faults. If 
I know you, one of your leading virtues is a resolute, determined, almost 
dogged kindness and devotion of service to mankind, who have, in your 

Mudgment, no claim on your affection, and whom your impulses lead you 
to despise. This is a great battle which often rages, the conflict between 
your resolution to be kind and your impulse to be almost revengeful. 

x The habitual triumph of the principle over the feeling is all the more 

bright from the fierceness of the~conflict. I think I not only partly know 

what s done, but also much of what s resisted. One of your greatest 

faults, which has been more and more corrected from year to year, and 

340 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 1L STEPHENS. 341 

which must therefore be known to you, is a residuum of what s not re 
sisted, an imperiousness which loves to show the herd how much they are 
your inferiors in certain points. It produces good and evil too. I think 
you are under a mistaken and unhappy philosophy ; or perhaps it is more 
accurate to say that your philosophy has failed to cure the unhappiness 
of your constitution. I do not think it is an attainable thing, either to 
feel universally kind and brotherly towards all mankind, or to acquire an 
utter indifference to their opinions ; and yet I do believe that the greatest 
happiness and wisdom consist in the nearest possible approximation to 
universal good will toward mankind and profound indifference to their 
opinions. The opinions of people have too much power to affect your 
happiness. It is so. Besides, you impute to them sometimes opinions 
which they do not have. I would not obtrude an unwelcome word upon 
you : and I hope I have not done so." 

On the next day Linton writes again, referring to the same 
letter of the 25th : 

" Your letter, to which I wrote some sort of an answer last night, has 
produced strange feelings in me. I can t define them very well, but they 
are not pleasant feelings. I have burned the letter. It has been rather a 
rare thing with me to burn one of your letters. I have piles of them on 
hand : one in a similar strain with the last, but none like it or approaching 
it in its energy, its despair, and yet its unwavering resolution to bear on 
and despair on. I read it at first in the light of an opinion which I 
already had ; but when I re-read it to-day, and compared all its points, I 
don t understand it. You must allude to something I don t understand ; 
or else what I had really discovered has assumed proportions and magni 
tude that I had little suspected. I don t feel anything that can be called 
curiosity about it, but I do feel a deep interest in it. I had thought that 
no human heart had ever felt a woe or an agony without yearning to 
tell it to some sympathizing ear. Such is my nature, and such is my 
judgment of human nature. To find something different from this seems 
strange indeed. To have the yearning without finding the sympathizing 
heart for communication of the burden is what I can and do well and 
often, so fully comprehend ; but a desire to hoard a misery to yourself is 
what I don t understand." 

On the 28th of January, Mr. Stephens writes to E,. M. J., 
giving a sketch of his multifarious daily occupations. 

" I know you would pity me if you were to see my operations for one 
day. Now what do you think? I was just going to say, if you could 
see my work, interruptions, calls, and long sittings of visitors, etc.; but 
before I got the words penned here carne a man who consumed a half- 
hour of my time ; and so it is from morning until night, and from night 



342 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Jill morning. I rise and breakfast at eight ; then commence with my mail. 
Frequently I do not get half through that before I am bored almost to 
death with calls on business of all sorts ; then to the Committee at ten ; 
then to the House at twelve : then to dinner at four ; then calls before I 
leave the table till twelve at night. Then I take up and get through my 
unfinished reading of letters and newspapers of the morning ; and then 
at one o clock get to bed. I now have about one hundred letters before 
me unanswered. Were you here, you would pity me. . . . But on one 
thing I am determined : when this session ends, with it will and shall 
end my connection with politics forever. Then I can follow, and if life 
and strength allow, I can and will devote myself to pursuits more con 
genial to my tastes and nature." 

On February 3d, Mr. Stephens writes to Linton : 

"I have not yet commenced my letter to the people of the Eighth Dis 
trict, declining to run any more; but I shall do it just as soon as I can. 
The House has not yet set aside any day for the consideration of Territorial 
business. The session, I think, will come to a general smash-up of the 
public business in the closing scenes. This will be no affair of mine. 
Those will be mostly concerned who remain on the public boards. I am 
daily becoming more anxious for the close of my labors here." 

On the 18th he writes to K. M. J. : 

" I send you a small slip from a newspaper in this city. To you I will 
say it is from a lady whose daughter I am educating. She is the wife of 

. He is poor, very poor : his wife was once well off, of good 

family, but they are now reduced. They have a little daughter of sprightly 
mind, but severely afflicted in body. I sent her to school last year, and 
intend to keep her at school until she gets her education. I make this 
explanation that you may know to what she alludes in the last stanza." 

The slip contained a few stanzas praising an unnamed bene 
factor; of no great merit as poetry, but pleasing to him as the 
sincere expression of a gratitude which had nothing else to give. 

At this time Mr. Stephens was paying the expenses of several 
young persons of both sexes in schools and colleges ; a practice 
which he had begun years before, and as soon as his means 
would allow. In this particular way he has probably done 
more, to the extent of his means, than any other person. His 
legal practice was hicjratwej^eyeji .while he was in Congress; 
ImcTas His "own wants were few and simple, he expended the 
greater part of his income in benefactions of various sorts. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 343 

"We ranch regret the loss of all the letters between this clate^ 
and that of March 16th. This was an interesting period in 
Stephens s career, and, as he then believed, the last of his labors 
in Congress. Several of Linton s letters allude to events of 
this time, and especially to his speech on the admission of 
Oregon ; the speech which of all he ever made in Congress 
made perhaps the strongest immediate impression. All who 
heard it spoke of it as a master-piece of eloquence. It was not 
written out, and the summaries given by the press from the 
reporters notes represent it so imperfectly that we refrain from 
giving an extract from them. 

On the 16th of March he writes from home, where he has 
settled down with the conviction that he has finally retired from 
public life. The letter is chiefly about his old friend and 
favorite Rio, of whom he has sad news to tell. 

" A part of my daily duties is to doctor poor Rio. Poor fellow, he is 
blind. When I got home, driving into the yard, just before dark, and 
saw him at a distance, and called to him, and saw from the motion of his 
head and body that he could not se e me, I almost wept. He knew iny 
voice and came as fast as he could in a devious way, turning right as I 
spoke to him, until he scented me out, and then put up the most piteous 
rejoicing bark in evident tones of lamentation. My heart was overcome, 
but I could do and say nothing but, Poor dog ! you know your master, 
do you? whereupon he seemed to utter something like a cry himself. He 
now follows me about wherever I go. He barks incessantly if I leave 
him. He keeps close after me, and follows the sound of my feet. I 
usually carry a cane, and let that drag along behind for him to hear it 
more distinctly than he can my tread. He goes thus with me to town ; 
knows when he gets to the court-house steps, knows when he gets to the 
platform of the depot, knows when he is on the hill-side of the Spring- 
branch. For two days I have been washing his eyes with sugar of lead:. 
I think it helps them. To-day in walking out in the old fields, I fancied 
he could see a little. I thought he shunned a bush. Usually he will butt 
against anything in the way. When I noticed him going round the bush 
as I thought, I called him to me and said, Why, Rio, can master s dog 
see again? He opened his inflamed eyes wide, and looked me in the face. 
Whether he could see or not, I do not know, but he barked joyously and 
frisked off as he used to do in play. I said. Do you want to catch a 
rabbit? whereupon he barked as before and seemed to have life enough 
if he had had his sight. I am going to do my best to cure him." 

Here the writer details the system of treatment he proposes 



344 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

to carry out, which, as it unhappily proved unsuccessful, we 
omit. 

March 18th. After a long discussion on the subject of novels, 
he reverts to the health of poor Rio, in which he flatters him 
self he discovers some improvement. 

" My daily recreation and amusement, apart from books and writing, is 
the melancholy pastime of strolling about the lot and grounds, leading, or 
rather guiding, a blind dog. Who knows what he will come to? But I 
tell you it is a great thing for a man to take pleasure in whatever lot he 
finds himself cast in. This is the secret of life ; and I assure you I find 
more pleasure in thus exercising Rio, and witnessing the pleasure it affords 
him, than I ever did in the enjoyment of all the honors this world has ever 
seen fit to bestow upon me, though some of the papers say that no man 
ever retired from public life with more general good will and favor than I 
have. So be it : I am content ; and whether it be so or not, I am content." 

About this time Mr. Stephens, who had heard of the talents 
of Mr. Ward, the sculptor, hunted him up and gave him his 
first commission, which was for a bust of himself. For this he 
paid four hundred dollars. He had previously had one taken 
by Count Sandors, a Polish refugee, and artist of genius, whose 
return to Poland he procured by his interposition with the Rus 
sian Minister. For this he paid six hundred dollars, and made 
it a present to an intimate friend. The Count, it may be men 
tioned, was assassinated about three years after his return. 

On the 15th of March he writes a long letter to R. M. J. 
After speaking of his severe headaches and other ailments, he 
says, in reference to his reaching home : 

" I felt like a mariner after a long and perilous voyage, who, once more 
in safety, is permitted to tread the firm ground about his own mansion. 
God willing, he will remain there. This is my feeling. ... I feel truly 
gratified myself that my public services have been closed as they have. 
Few men have passed more critical junctures with more uniform success, 
and none in my knowledge have ended their careers with more of the gen 
eral good will and esteem of men of all parties than I have. This is no 
small compensation for the cares, anxieties, and perplexities attending the 
labors I have performed, in all which I can assure you I have looked to 
nothing so much as the public good. In all my public acts that has been 
the leading object and controlling motive. The remainder of my days, 
whether few or many, I wish to devote to objects more congenial to iny 
nature than looking after and watching the interest and welfare of a rest- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 345 

less, captious, and fault-finding people. It is true, I have less to complain 
of on that score than any one who ever occupied the position I have so 
long. Indeed, I do not complain at all. Still, it is more agreeable to me 
to look after my own affairs than other people s. In this course I shall at 
least be free from that intense sense of responsibility which ever pressed 
so heavily upon me while occupying a post of public trust and confidence." 

In May of this year the death of the Hon. Charles J. Mac- 
donald caused a vacancy on the bench of the Supreme Court of 
the State. There were many applicants for the post among the 
first lawyers of the State. Lin ton Stephens was at this time 
only thirty-five years of age, had no thought of applying for 
the appointment, which, indeed, he did not desire, and was 
greatly surprised when it was offered him by Governor Brown. 
His first impulse was to decline ; but at the urgent instance of 
his brother and other near friends he accepted. His course 
upon the bench fully justified the appointment. At this time 
the court had several places for its sittings, and the first, after 
Linton s appointment, was held at Athens in the same month. 
The brothers came up together and were guests of the present 
writer, who well remembers the anxiety of the elder brother 
as to how the younger would acquit himself as the associate 
of Chief-Justice Lumpkin, and the satisfaction with which he 
noted his brother s entire fitness for the place. 

At this time Mr. Stephens had a great deal of vexation from 
an unpleasant domestic matter. Thomas Ray, who managed 
his plantation, fell into bad courses. He had married again 
after his first wife s death; but Mr. Stephens still employed him 
for "Cousin Sabra s" sake. He is now becoming a drunkard, 
neglecting his duties, and otherwise misbehaving, so as to try 
his employer s patience sorely ; and yet he hates to discharge 
him, hates to use any harshness to one connected in so many 
ways with " auld lang syne." The difficulty was settled by 
removing him from the control of the homestead and putting 
him on another place, which Mr. Stephens bought for the 
purpose. 

On Mr. Stephens s retirement from Congress, a very unusual 
compliment had been paid him in the offer of a public dinner 
tendered by members of both Houses, without distinction of 



346 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

party, headed by the Vice-President (in his capacity of President 
of the Senate) and by the Speaker of the House, as a testimony 
of personal esteem. Business engagements, however, compelled 
him to decline the honor. 

On the 2d of July, his constituents of the Eighth District of 
Georgia gave him a public dinner at Augusta, on which occasion 
he delivered a farewell address, touching upon the most impor 
tant points of his public life, and those subjects which he had 
taken interest, and perhaps gained some honor in promoting; 
and to none with more satisfaction to himself than the assistance 
he had given in 1836, on his first entry into public life, to the 
Female College at Macon. He remarks : 

11 Contrast, for a moment, in your minds, the condition of Georgia, phys 
ically and intellectually, in 1836, when I first entered the Legislature, with 
her condition now. The change seems almost equal to the works of magic. 
Passing by those material developments which have given us the honor of 
b.eing styled the Empire State among our sisters of the South, take but a 
glance in another department, that which embraces higher and nobler 
improvements. Then, there was but one college in the State, and that, 
for the education of men. Now, we have five times that number, of the 
same character. Then, there was not in the State, or in the world, I be 
lieve, a single chartered university for the education and regular gradua 
tion of women ; I mean such as conferred the usual college degrees. The 
Georgia Female College, at Macon, incorporated in 1836, with such objects, 
purposes, and powers, I believe, was the first of its kind anywhere. The 
movement at the time was the occasion of amusement to some. I may be 
pardoned in this presence in saying that it met my warm support. The 
experiment proving successful beyond the expectation of its most sanguine 
friends, the example became contagious, not only in our own State, but 
in adjoining States, and we now have a perfect galaxy of these brilliant 
luminaries, sending forth their cheering beams in every direction, like new 
stars in the firmament above, just brought into existence in the progress 
of creation. Whatever honor, therefore, Georgia is entitled to for her 
other great works of improvement and achievement ; and however broad, 
massive, and substantial the materials may be that enter into the monu 
ment reared to her fame ; and however high they may be piled up, let this 
still be at the top, the filling and crowning-point of her glory, that she 
took and holds the lead of all the world in female education." 

He congratulated the country upon the peaceful settlement at 
that time of all the agitating questions which were disturbing 
the country when he entered Congress in 1843. These were 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 347 

settled on the principles set forth in the Cincinnati platform, and 
by adherence to those there was a bright prospect of peace for 
the country; but if they departed from them, they might expect 
disaster. 

"Our safety," said he, "as "well as our future prospects, depend alto 
gether upon rigid adherence to those principles, and the adjustment effected 
by them. They are the ship on which, as Paul said, Except ye abide, ye 
cannot be saved. " 

This speech was intended as a solemn warning not only to his 
constituents and the people of the South, but the whole country, 
that in his opinion the peace and prosperity of the country de 
pended upon a strict and inflexible adherence to the principles 
of the adjustment measures of 1850 upon the subject of slavery, 
as carried out and expressed in the Democratic Baltimore plat 
form of 1852, with the additional plank inserted in the Cincin 
nati Convention of 1856. It was well known then that Mr. 
Stephens had serious apprehensions that those principles would 
be departed from in the next Democratic Convention to be held 
in Charleston the following year. It was also known that he 
did not finally determine to withdraw from Congress until after 
a personal interview with Mr. Buchanan, in which he had urged 
the President to cease his warfare against Mr. Douglas, and the 
support of the paper known as his organ in Washington in in 
sisting upon the insertio-Q-of A new plank in the next Convention, 
asserting it to be the duty of Congress to pass acts to protect 
slavery in^tl^Tmtories,_a,nd not to leave that subject, as 
Cincinnati platform had done, with" the people of the Territories. 
Mr. Stephens most urgently assured the President that if he 
continued to pursue the line of policy he was then following 
there would be a burst-up at Charleston, and with that a burst- 
up of the Union, temporary or permanent, "as certainly as 
he would break his neck if he sprang from that window" [of 
the reception-room at the White House, in which they were con 
versing] " or as that the sun would set that night. 77 Mr. Buch 
anan seemed surprised at this opinion, but was unshaken in his 
determination to adhere to the policy he was then following. 
Mr. Stephens, in taking leave, told the President that his object 



348 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

in seeking the interview was to know if his purpose was as 
stated, and if that was so, his own intention was, not to allow 
himself to be returned to the next Congress. He had spent 
sixteen years of life in striving to maintain the Union upon the 
principles of the Constitution ; this he thought could be done 
for many years to come upon the principles set forth in the Cin- 
cijinati platform. The Government administered on these prin 
ciples he thought the best in the world ; but if it was departed 
from, he saw nothing but ruin ahead. He did not wish to be 
in at the death ; but if disunion should come in consequence of 
this departure, he should go with the people of his own State. 

Another fact connected with the retirement of Mr. Stephens 
from Congress may be noted here. When leaving Washington, 
with a number of other Southern members, on the beautiful 
morning of the 6th of March, 1859, he stood at the stern of the 
boat for some minutes, gazing back at the Capitol, when some 
one jocularly said, "I suppose you are thinking of corning back 
to those halls as a Senator." (It was known that he had an 
nounced his intention not to return as a Representative.) Mr. 
Stephens replied, with some emotion, " No ; I never expect to 
see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner 
of war." This was literally fulfilled in the latter part of 
October, 1865, when he passed through Washington on his way 
to his home as a paroled prisoner from Fort W^arren. 

His peculiar fondness for dogs, often referred to, finds ex 
pression again in a letter of July 17th, in which he speaks of a 
little dog, formerly the pet of " Cousin Sabra" Ray, which had 
been bitten by a snake the day before. 

" Last night he wandered off below the vineyard and there breathed his 
last. I could but wonder if the poor dog was trying to get to the grave 
of his mistress, that his last resting-place might be near hers. Why should 
he have gone in that direction? Why quit the house, which he seldom 
left? Yet, who can suppose that the dog knew anything about where his 
mistress was laid? All this is a foolish conjecture ; and yet, what unac 
countable instincts, when death was upon him, prompted him to go off 
there to die ? Poor dog I I almost wept myself when I heard he was 
dead. I seldom saw him without thinking of Cousin Sabra." 

Mr. J., being Professor of English Literature in the State 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 349 

University, invited Mr. Stephens to deliver the usual address 
upon the presentation of the medals at the Sophomore prize 
declamations. He accepted; but afterwards found himself in 
great perplexity about it, and wrote that he was " a fool for ac 
cepting any such position." He came to the Commencement, 
still much troubled about what one would have thought a mere 
trifle to so practised a speaker. By the day before Commence 
ment he had written out an address, but had not memorized it. 
On the morning of the day, the professor (whose guest he was) 
went into his room before breakfast, and found him dressed, and 
in quite a sprightly frame of mind. To the inquiry how he had 
slept, he replied that he had not closed an eye all night, having 
spent the hours in committing his speech to memory ! When 
the time came, he delivered the address precisely as it was 
written. 

During all the fall of this year Mr. Stephens suffered much, 
though he gave constant attention to his business, which was 
large, and involved many journeys to courts and elsewhere. At 
the time he went to Congress he was worth about fourteen 
thousand dollars. During the sixteen years he was at Congress 
his law-office was closed; and when he left Congress he was 
worth about sixteen thousand dollars, the increase having arisen 
from a small accumulation of interest. During the two years 
following he made twenty-two thousand dollars at his profession. 

A rule adopted by him in entering Congress in 1843, was not 
to make a dollar in Washington beyond his salary. For all his 
services rendered to his constituents before the Departments, as 
well as the Supreme Court, when Congress was in session, re 
covering for them upwards of three hundred thousand dollars, 
he would never receive a dollar, though compensation was often 
urged upon him by his constituents, who averred that they would 
never have committed their business to him if they had known 
thatjhe would not charge as regular attorneys did for similar 
services. """""He never took a case into one of his State courts while 
he was in Congress ; though during that period he often ap 
peared, as an advocate only, on trial of causes ; but always 
refused to engage himself as such advocate, if that duty would 
conflict with his duties at Washington. In this way he made 



350 L1FE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

considerable sums, often as much as two thousand dollars at a 
time ; all which he devoted to charitable purposes, aiding in 
building churches, and in the education of young persons without 
means, as before stated. 

The last word we have from his pen this year is this: "I like 
law better than politics, but like being at home better than either ; 
and am now inclined to the opinion that very soon I shall quit 
the courts, and devote all my time to myself, or with myself. 
Not this year; but very soon, if I live." The fates, however, 
had determined otherwise. 



CHAPTER XXXIII. 

The Family at Liberty Hall A Cautious Passenger Favors the Nomi 
nation of Mr. Douglas Charleston Convention Baltimore Convention, 
, and the Split in the Democratic Party Four Candidates in the Field 
Mr. Stephens s Views and Apprehensions Letter of Advice The Plan 
of Safety Duty of the Party Sickness Signs of Approaching Rabies 
" He is Insane !" Election of Mr. Lincoln and the Feeling at the South 
Speech at Milledgeville Impression produced Anecdote Letters from 
Northern Men Correspondence with Mr. Lincoln. 

WHEN Mr. Stephens thus settled down into domestic life for 
the rest of his days, as he fondly imagined, it was not to pass 
those days in solitude. Though a bachelor, he had a little family 
at Liberty Hall. One member of this family was Mr. George 
F. Bristow, a young man whom he had assisted in his education, 
and who was then a lawyer of distinction in the county ; the 
other was Mr. Quinea O Neal, jocularly termed " the Parson." 
A great many of the letters to Linton are filled with humorous 
descriptions of domestic scenes at the Hall. They are generally 
given in dramatic form, and each character and incident, even 
down to the part in the scenes taken by Pup, Rio, and Troup 
(the dogs), is very vividly set forth. Much of the fun hinges 
on the dry caustic humor of "the Parson," as he is called. Mr. 
O Neal had been Ordinary of the county for about thirty years, 
and was greatly respected and liked in the town, not only for his 
high moral character, but also for his cordial and familiar inter 
course with the young men of the neighborhood, whom he often 
very good-naturedly and pleasantly lectured, especially those who 
gave promise of talent and usefulness. Among these was John 
Bird, Linton s cousin. Bird, as we have before mentioned, was 
a young man of brilliant talents, and stood at the head of that 
class of young men to whom Mr. O Neal gave most of his at 
tention. It was Bird who gave the sedate and didactic old 
Ordinary the sobriquet of " Parson," though he was never con- 

351 



352 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

nected with any church. The u Parson" became an inmate of 
Mr. Stephens s family by his invitation, after the death of his 
wife, and is known not only by the visitors to Liberty Hall, but 
all over the State. The most devoted friendship existed between 
him and the brothers, and he has ever claimed no small part in 
moulding the characters of both. 

January 29th. He had received a letter from Linton, show 
ing great depression of spirits, on account of the loss of his 
wife, and it had affected him deeply. 

" I have been down to the old homestead place, over the play-grounds 
and work-grounds of my youth. These but brought in review their 
many soul-touching memories. You cannot conceive how deeply I am 
touched by your tone of depression. But what can I say for your relief? 
Nothing absolutely nothing. That must come from yourself, and from 
Him in whose hands we all are held. Sometimes I am totally bewildered, 
as if stunned by the incomprehensibilities around me. However, I recover 
with the confidence that all will be right in the end, if I do my duty. 
This is the only light by which my faith is guided. This is my only stay, 
my only staff. The calls of duty, activity, and exertion keep me up, and 
they are all that do. But for a will which I believe few possess, and for 
which I am truly thankful. I should long since have sunk into hopeless 
despair. But that will seems sometimes weak and faltering, as it does this 
day. Shall it fail me? I trust not. But who can tell? . . . Shall I be 
able to hold on to the end? That is the question. For twenty-odd years 
you have been the polar star of my existence. In you all my hopes have 
been centred. Should you by any means be removed from me, I fear my 
stay, my staff, would break. You may know, therefore, how keenly Jfeel 
anything that concerns you." 

During this year Mr. Stephens was very actively engaged in 
the practice of his profession, which was now quite lucrative, as 
stated. 

In many of his letters to K. M. J. there are allusions to his 
cases. One, tried before the Supreme Court, was the appeal of 
a man indicted for murder and found guilty by the lower court. 
Mr. Stephens was his counsel, and the former judgment was 
reversed. He expresses his gratification at this result, partly 
because he did not believe his client guilty of murder, and 
partly because, as he says, " I had never defended a man that 
was hung, and I did not wish this prestige broken." 

The Democratic Convention for the Presidential nomination 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS, 353 

was to meet in Charleston in April. Mr. Stephens had re 
peatedly expressed his determination to avoid henceforth all 
public connection with politics. We have seen from his letters 
during the last session how little hope he felt in the triumph of 
just principles, and with what apprehension he viewed the 
general lack of statesmanship and patriotism. To a friend who 
asked him why he had withdrawn from public life, he answered, 
f When I am on one of two trains coming iir opposite directions 
?on a single track, both engines at high speed, and both engineers 
[drunk, I get off at the first station." But notwithstanding his 
expressed determination, there were many who desired that he 
should be put in nomination for the Presidency. To those who 
applied to him on the subject, he invariably replied that he did 
not wish his name brought before the Charleston Convention ; 
and while he was anxious that the Convention should agree 
upon a candidate on a proper platform of principles, such as 
those of 1856, his own determination not to attend was final. 
Among the more prominent aspirants he preferred Mr. Douglas. 
Notwithstanding that the latter opposed the policy of the ma 
jority of the Democratic party on the question of the admission 
of Kansas, yet Mr. Stephens believed him a sincere patriot 
and the foremost defender of the rights of the States under 
the Constitution. He thought, too,, that with the old platform 
of 1856 unaltered, Mr. Douglas would be the most available 
candidate. 

Among Mr. Stephens s political opponents there were some 
who suspected him, notwithstanding his declarations, of secretly 
plotting to secure the nomination. Early in the spring, the 
editor of a newspaper in Governor Cobb s interest wrote to him 
on the political situation, and Mr. Stephens replied, giving his 
views in reference to the approaching Convention. Among 
other things, he declared his entire willingness to support Mr. 
Cobb, should he be the nominee. This editor, through a com 
mon friend, asked permission of Mr. Stephens to publish the 
letter, on the ground that such a publication would place Mr. 
Stephens on a right footing in the minds of many who did not 
fully understand his position. In reply he wrote to the friend 
alluded to : 

23 



354 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

" I cannot consent to the publication o^ the letter. It was not written for 
the public. While it contains nothing that I should care about the public 
seeing, if they had any business with it, yet they have none 5 and for this 

reason I am opposed to any such personal exhibition of myself. Mr, 

urges as a reason for it that it will set me right with many persons in that 
section of the State. On this point I am indifferent. So I am right with 
myself, I care but little for the opinions of others. ... I have a great 
repugnance to figuring before the public on any such questions. If I 
have to suffer from the unjust suspicions of some which the publication 
of the letter might remove, I should but subject myself to the criticisms 
of others for the indulgence of a personal vanity in obtruding myself 
upon the public in a way and at a time uncalled for. So it is better to 
bide my fortunes, and let time effect its own cure for all the evils incident 
to a straightforward course in all things. This has been my rule of action 
from the beginning of this controversy, and I intend to abide by it." 

The Charleston Convention met, and matters were at once 
brought to an issue by the party opposed to Mr. Douglas offer 
ing a resolution which contained the new "plank" which it 
was proposed to insert into the Democratic platform. It ran as 
follows : 

" Resolved, That the government of a Territory organized by the act of 
Congress is provisional and temporary ; and during its existence all citi 
zens of the United States have an equal right to settle with their property 
in the Territory without their rights, either of person or property, being 
destroyed or impaired by Congressional or Territorial legislation." 

These words, " Territorial legislation," were aimed at the 
" Squatter Sovereignty" doctrine, as it was called, of Mr. 
Douglas and those who held with him that the people of a 
Territory had the right of regulating their local affairs. The 
resolution was rejected, upon which a number of the delegates 
withdrew, and called a Convention to meet at Richmond on the 
second Monday in June. The remaining delegates adjourned 
to meet at Baltimore on the 18th of June; and the Richmond 
Convention, after assembling, adjourned to meet at the same 
time and place as the regular Convention. At the meeting in 
Baltimore another split took place. The regular Convention 
nominated Messrs. Douglas and Fitzpatrick ; but the latter 
declining, the nomination for the Vice-Presidency was given 
to Mr. Herschel V. Johnson, of Georgia, The " bolters" adopted 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 355 

the Cincinnati platform, with the Charleston Resolution, and 
nominated Breckenridge and Lane. 

Previously to this a third party had put in nomination 
Messrs. Bell, of Tennessee, and Everett, of Massachusetts ; 
and the Republicans at Chicago afterwards nominated Messrs. 
Lincoln, of Illinois, and IJamlin, of Maine. 

Thus there were four sets of candidates in the field ; but the 
division only weakened the South, as none of the candidates 
opposed to Mr. Lincoln was able to carry a single Northern 
State. 

After the dissolution at Charleston, Mr. Stephens lost all 
hope of a settlement of the dissensions of the party. On the 
6th of May he thus wrote to R. M. J. : 

" As to the blow-up at Charleston, all I can say is that I deeply regret 
it, though I was not much disappointed with it. The country is in a bad 
state, much worse than the people are aware of. This may be the begin 
ning of the end. ... I am sorry things are as they are ; sorry as I should 
be to see the paroxysms of a dear friend in a fit of delirium tremens. On 
such occasions it is useless to indulge in complaints or upbraidings ; the 
only question is, can any relief be afforded? But enough. I am taken 
up with plantation business and with law business, and have but little 
time to devote to public affairs. I can get along with any sort of govern 
ment as well as anybody else." 

Shortly after the receipt of this letter, Mr. Johnston paid a 
visit to Mr. Stephens and had a long conversation with him. 
Some things that he said were so striking that they were after 
wards noted down ; and from these notes we append an extract. 

MR. J. li Well, the Charleston Convention has adjourned without a 
nomination. What do you think of matters noAv?" 

MR. S. " Think of them ? Why, that men will be cutting one another s 
throats in a little while. In less than twelve months we shall be in a 
war. and that the bloodiest in history. Men seem to be utterly blinded to 
the future. You remember my reading to you a letter which I wrote to a 
gentleman in Texas, asking the use of my name in his State as a candi 
date for the Presidency?" 

MR. J. " The one in which you said that we should make the Charles 
ton Convention a Marathon or a Waterloo?" 

MR. S. " Yes. Well, we have made it a Waterloo." 

MR. J. " Do you not think that matters may yet be adjusted at Balti 
more?" 



356 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

MR. S. " Not the slightest chance for it. The party is split forever. 
Douglas will not retire from the stand he has taken, and the party will 
nominate somebody else. The only hope was at Charleston. If the party 
could have agreed there we might carry the election. As it is, the cause 
is hopelessly lost. The election cannot be carried without the support of 
Douglas." 

MR. J. " I hope he will give his support yet." 

MR. S. "Never." 

MR. J. "What a misfortune it was that he did not support the Le- 
compton Constitution." 

MR. S. "Yes. But he knew, as all men knew, that it was procured 
by stratagem. I supported it, not in consideration of any matters con 
nected with its formation, except that it was framed in strict and technical 
conformity with the enabling act. I thought it ought to be adopted, and 
think so yet, because it gave us only what we were entitled to under the 
Kansas Act." 

MR. J. "You think Douglas entitled to the nomination?" 

MR. S. " I won t say that he is entitled to it ; but I will say that he is 
one of the foremost defenders of constitutional rights in the country. And 
then his name has been the strongest in two Conventions. He voluntarily 
withdrew it in 1852 5 the same in 1856. I suppose he has made up his 
mind not to withdraw it a third time. The greatest alleged objections to 
Douglas are his ambition and the hordes of office-seekers that are in his 
suite. If the party would be satisfied with the Cincinnati platform, and 
would cordially nominate Douglas, we should carry the election ; but I 
repeat to you that is impossible." 

MR. J. " But why must we have civil war, even if the Republican 
candidate should be elected?" 

MR. S. " Because there are not virtue and patriotism and sense enough 
left in the country to avoid it. Mark me, when I repeat that in less than 
twelve months we shall be in the midst of a bloody war. What is to 
become of us then God only knows. The Union will certainly be dis 
rupted ; and what will make it so disastrous is the way in which it will be 
done. The Southern people are not unanimous now, and will not lie, on 
the question of secession. The Republican nominee will be elected. Then 
South Carolina will secede. For me, I should be content to let her have 
her own way, and go out alone. But the Gulf States will follow her 
example. The people are by no means unanimous; but the majorities 
will follow her. They are what we will start off with in our new nation, 
the Gulf States following South Carolina. After that the Border States 
will hesitate, and their hesitation will encourage the North to make war 
upon us. If the South would unanimously and simultaneously go out of 
the Union we could make a very strong government. But even then, if 
there were only Slave States in the new confederacy, we should be known 
as the Black Republic, and be without the sympathy of the world. Still, 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 357 

if we had wise and patriotic men, and men that were statesmen, we could 
make a great country of the South." 

MR. J. 4k Do you think it was entirely right in you positively to forbid 
your name going before the Charleston Convention?" 

MR. S. " Yes : I think so, decidedly. The Democratic party had quite 
enough men from whom to choose. I did not wish the office. In perfect 
sincerity with you, I should exceedingly dislike to be President. I do not 
wish that office nor any other. What amazes me in Douglas is his desire 
to be President. I have sometimes asked him what he desired the office 
for. It has never yet added to the fame of a single man. You may look 
over the list of the Presidents : which of them made any reputation after 
he became President ? Four years, or even eight, are too short a time to 
enable a man to pursue a policy which will be permanent enough to give 
him reputation. Louis Napoleon, as President of France under the Con 
stitution, could have made no reputation. He is beginning now to make 
it. When he shall have been where he is as long again as he has been 
already, he may then, if his abilities are really great, become illustrious. 
I could never see why so many men in this country should be anxious to 
be President. People don t generally believe me in what I say about my 
self in this respect ; but that is all very indifferent to me. Some of your 
people in Athens will insist on believing that I opposed the nomination of 
Governor Cobb by the State Convention at Milledgeville. I had nothing 
upon earth to do with that, neither for nor against him. No, sir ; I far 
prefer living here right here to being President of the United States. 
If I had loved office I should have continued in the House of Representa 
tives. That office to me is preferable to the Presidency. If I were ambi 
tious to make a reputation, I should be able to make it faster in that place 
than in the other." 

On May 5th of this year a letter was addressed to Mr. 
Stephens by thirteen gentlemen of Macon, expressing their 
apprehensions arising from the discord exhibited in the Charles 
ton Convention, and asking his counsel, especially with reference 
to the adjourned Convention to be held in Baltimore. As his 
reply embodies completely his views of the situation and its 
exigencies, we give it at length : 

"CRAWFORDVILLE, GEORGIA, May 9th, 1860. 

" GENTLEMEN, Your letter of the 5th inst. was received last night, and 
I promptly respond to your call as clearly and fully as a heavy press of 
business engagements will permit. I shall endeavor to be no less pointed 
and explicit than candid. You do not, in my judgment, over-estimate the 
importance of the questions now pressing upon the public mind, growing 
out of the disruption of the Charleston Convention. While I was not 



358 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

greatly surprised at that result, considering the elements of its composi 
tion and the general distemper of the times, still I deeply regret it, and, 
with you, look with intense interest to the consequences. What is done 
cannot be undone or amended : that must remain irrevocable. It would, 
therefore, be as useless as ungracious to indulge in any reflections as to 
whose fault the rupture was owing to. Perhaps, and most probably, 
undue excitement and heat of passion in pursuit of particular ends con 
nected with the elevation or overthrow of particular rivals for preferment, 
more than any strong desire guided by cool judgment, so necessary on 
such occasions to advance the public good, was the real cause of the rup 
ture. Be that as it may, however, what is now to be done and what is 
the proper course to be taken? To my mind the course seems to be 
clear. 

"A State convention should be called at an early day, and that con 
vention" should" consider the whole subject calmly and dispassionately, 
with the sober second thought, and determine whether to send a repre 
sentation to Richmond or to Baltimore. The correct determination of this 
question, as I view it, will depend upon another ; and that is, whether the 
doctrine of non-intervention b^Cpngres..s:itk- slavery in the- Territories 
-ought to be adhered to or abandoned by the South. This is a very grave 
and seTious question, and ought not to be decided rashly or intemperately. 
No such small matters as the promotion of this or that individual, how 
ever worthy or unworthy, ought to enter into its consideration. It is a 
great subject of public policy, affecting the vast interests of the present 
and the future. It may be unnecessary and entirely useless for me to 
obtrude my views upon this question in advance of the meeting of such 
convention upon whom its decision may primarily devolve. I cannot, 
however, comply with your request" without doing so to a limited extent 
at least. This I shall do. 

* In the first place, then, I assume as an unquestioned and unquestionabl e 
fact that 7ion-m^rvewfoow > .as.sJtated,4iasbeen for many years received, recog- 
nizeoTanH acted upon as the settled doctrine of the South. By non-interven 
tion, I mean the principle that Congress shall pass no law upon the subject 
of slavery in the Territories, either for or against it, in any way, that they 
shall not interfere nor act upon it at all, or, in the express words of Mr. 
Calhoun, the great Southern leader, that Congress shall leave the whole 
subject where the Constitution and the great principles of self-government 
placed it. This has been eminently a Southern doctrine. It was an 
nounced by Mr. Calhoun in his speech in the Senate on the 27th of June, 
1848 ; and, after two years of discussion, was adopted as the basis of the 
adjustment made in 1850. It was the demand of the South, put forth by 
the South, and since its establishment finally has been again and again 
affirmed and reaffirmed as the settled policy of the South by party conven 
tions and State Legislatures, in every form in which a people can give 
authoritative expression to their will and wishes. This cannot be matter 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 359 

of dispute. It is history, as indelibly fixed upon the record as the fact 
that the colony of Georgia was settled under the auspices of Oglethorpe, 
or that the war of the American Revolution was fought in resistance to 
the unjust claim of power on the part of the British Parliament. 

u I refer to this matter of history connected with the subject under con 
sideration barely as a starting-point, to show how we stand in relation to 
it. It is not a new question. It has been up before, and whether rightly 
or wrongly, it has been decided, decided and settled just as the South 
asked that it should be, not, however, without great effort and a prolonged 
struggle. The question now is, Shall the South abandon her own position 
in that decision and settlement? This is the question virtually presented 
by the action of the seceders from the Charleston Convention, and the 
grounds upon which they based their action ; or, stated in other words, it 
amounts to this: whether the Southern States, after all that has taken 
place on this subject, should now reverse their previous course, and de- 
inand Congressional interventwn for the protection i of slavery in the Terri 
tories as a condition of their remaining longer in the Union? For I take 
it for granted that it would be considered by all the most mischievous folly 
to make the demand, unless we intend to push the issue to its ultimate and 
legitimate results. Shall the South, then, make this demand of Congress, 
and when made, in case of failure to obtain it, shall she secede from the 
Union, as a portion of her delegates (some under instructions and some 
from their own free w r ill) seceded from the Convention on their failure to 
get it granted there ? 

" Thus stands the naked question, as I understand it, presented by the 
action of the seceders, in its full dimensions, its length, breadth, and 
depth, in all its magnitude. 

" It is presented not to the Democratic party alone : it is true a conven 
tion of that party may first act on it ; but it is presented to the country, 
to the whole people of the South, of all parties. And men of all parties 
should duly and timely consider it, for they may all have to take sides on it, 
sooner or later. 

"It rises in importance high above any party organization of the pres 
ent day, and it may and ought to, if need be, sweep them all from the 
board. My judgment is against the demand. If it were a new question, 
presented in its present light for the first time, my views upon it might be 
different from what they are. It is known to you and the country that the 
policy of non-intervention, as established at the instance of the South, was 
no favorite one of mine. As to my position upon it, and the doctrine now 
revived, when they were original and open questions, as well as my pres 
ent views, I will cite to you an extract of a speech made by me in Augusta, 
in July last, on taking final leave of my constituents. I could not re 
state them more clearly or more briefly. In speaking of and reviewing 
this matter, I then said : 

" And, as you all may know, [non-intervention] came short of whai I wished. It 
was, in my view, not the full measure of our rights. That required, in my judg- 



360 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

ment, the enactment by Congress of all needful laws for the protection of slave 
l>reperty in the Territories, so long as the Territorial condition lasted. 

" But an overwhelming majority of the South was against that position. It was 
said that we who maintained it yielded the whole question by yielding the jurisdic 
tion, and that, if we conceded the power to protect, we necessarily conceded with 
it the power to prohibit. This by no means followed, in my judgment. But such 
was the prevailing opinion. And it was not until it was well ascertained that a 
large majority of the South would not ask for, or even vote for, Congressional pro 
tection, that those of us who were for it yielded to non-intervention, because, though 
it came short of our wishes, yet it contained no sacrifice of principle, had nothing 
aggressive in it, and secured for all practical purposes what was wanted, that is, the 
unrestricted right of expansion over the common public domain, as inclination, con 
venience, or necessity may require on the part of the people. 

" Thus the settlement was made, thus the record stands; and by it I am willing 
still to stand, as it was fully up to the demands of the South through her represen 
tatives at the time, though not up to my own; and as by it the right of expansion 
to the extent of population and capacity is amply secured. 

" In this you clearly perceive what I think of the proper course now to 
be taken on the same subject. While in the beginning of this controversy 
I was not favorable to the policy adopted, yet I finally yielded my assent. 
It was yielded to the South, to the prevailing sentiment of my own sec 
tion. But it never would have been yielded if I had seen that any of our 
important rights, or any principle essential to our safety or security, could 
by possibility result from its operation. Nor would I now be willing to 
abide by it if I saw in its practical workings any serious injury to the South 
likely to result from it. All parties in the South, after the settlement was 
made, gave it the sanction of their acquiescence, if not cordial approval. 
What, then, has occurred since to cause us to change our position in rela 
tion to it? Is it that those of the North who stood by us in the struggle 
from 1848 to 1850, did afterward stand nobly by us in 1854 in taking off 
the old Congressional restriction of 1820, so as to have complete non-inter 
vention throughout the length and breadth of the common public domain? 
Was this heroism on their part in adhering to principle at the hazard and 
peril of their political lives and fortunes the cause of present complaint? 
This cannot be ; for never was an act of Congress so generally and so 
unanimously hailed with delight at the South as this one was, I mean the 
Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. It was not only endorsed by all parties in 
Georgia, but every one who did not agree to its just provisions upon the 
subject of slavery was declared to be unfit to hold party associations with 
any party not hostile to the interests of the South. What, then, is the 
cause of complaint now? Wherein has this policy w r orked any injury to 
the South, or wherein is it likely to work any? 

"The only cause of complaint I have heard is that non-intervention, as 
established in 1850, and carried out in 1854, is not understood at the North 
as it is at the South ; that while we hold that, in leaving the whole subject 
where the Constitution and the great principles of self-government place 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 361 

it, the common Territories are to remain open for settlement by Southern 
people, with their slaves, until otherwise provided by a State constitution, 
the friends and supporters of the same doctrine at the North maintain that, 
under it, thej3eople_oi an organized Territory can protect or exclude slave 
property before the formation of a State constitution. This opinion or 
construction of their* is wliai is commonly dubbed squatter sovereignty. 
" Upon this point of difference in construction of what are the great 
principles of self-government under the Constitution of the United States, 
a great deal has been said and written. We have heard of it in the social 
circle, in the forum, on the hustings, and in the halls of legislation. The 
newspapers have literally groaned with dissertations on it. Pamphlets 
have been published for and against the respective sides. Congress has 
spent months in its discussion, and may spend as many years as they have 
months without arriving at any more definite or satisfactory conclusion in 
relation to it than Milton s perplexed spirits did upon the abstruse questions 
on which they held such high and prolonged debate when they reasoned 

Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate; 
Fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute, 
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost. 

11 It is not now my purpose to enter the list of these disputants. My 
own opinions on the subject are known ; and it is equally known that this 
difference of opinion or construction is no new thing in the history of this 
subject. Those who hold the doctrine that the people of the Territories, 
according to the great principle of self-government, under the Constitu 
tion of the United States, can exclude slavery by Territorial law, and 
regulate slave property as all other property, held the same views they 
now do when we agreed with them to stand on those terms. This fact is 
also historical. The South held that under the Constitution the Terri-r 
torial Legislatures could not exclude slavery, that it required an act "of 
sovereignty to do this. Some gentlemen of the North held, as they now 
do, that the Territorial Legislatures could control slave property as abso 
lutely as they could any other kind of property, and by a system of laws 
could virtually exclude slavery from among them or prevent its introduc 
tion if they chose. 

" That point of difference it was agreed by both sides to leave to the 
courts to settle. There was no cheat, or swindle, or fraud, or double- 
dealing in it. It was a fair, honorable, and constitutional adjustment of 
the difference. No assertion or declaration by Congress, one way or the 
other, could have affected the question in the least degree : for if the 
people, according to the great principles of self-government under the 
Constitution, have the right contended for by those who espouse that side 
of the argument, then Congress could not and cannot deprive them of it. 
And if Congress did not have, or does not have, the power to exclude 
slavery from a Territory, as those on our side contended, and still contend 



362 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

they have not, then they could not and did not confer it upon the Terri 
torial Legislatures. We of the South held that Congress had not the power 
to exclude, and could not delegate a power they did not possess, also that 
the people had not the power to exclude under the Constitution, and there 
fore the mutual agreement was to take the subject out of Congress and 
leave the question of the power of the people where the Constitution had 
placed it with the courts. This is the whole of it. The question in dis 
pute is a judicial one, and no act of Congress, nor any resolution of any 
party convention can in any way affect it, unless we abandon the first 
position of non-intervention by Congress. 

" But it seems exceedingly strange to me that the people of the South 
should, at this late day, begin to find fault with this Northern construction, 
as it is termed, especially since the decision of the Supreme Court in the 
case of Dred Scott. In this connection I may be permitted to say that I 
have read with deep interest the debates of the Charleston Convention, 
and particularly the able, logical, and eloquent speech of the Hon. Win. 
L. Yancey, of Alabama. It was, decidedly, the strongest argument I have 
seen on his side of the question. But its greatest power w r as shown in its 
complete answer to itself. Never did a man with greater clearness demon 
strate that squatter sovereignty, the bugbear of the day, is not in the 
Kansas Bill, all that has been said to the contrary notwithstanding. This 
he put beyond the power of refutation. But he stopped not there, he 
went on, and, by reference to the decision of the Supreme Court alluded 
to, he showed conclusively, in a most pointed and thrilling climax, that 
this most frightful doctrine could not, by possibility, be in it, or in any 
other Territorial bill, that it is a constitutional impossibility. With the 
same master-hand he showed that the doctrine of squatter sovereignty 
is not in the Cincinnati platform 5 then why should we of the South now 
complain of non-intervention or ask a change of platform? 

" What else have we to do but to insist upon our allies standing to their 
agreement? Would it not have been much more natural to look for 
flinching on their side than on ours? Why should we desire any other 
platform of principles than that adopted at Cincinnati? If those who 
stood with us on it in the contest of 1856 are willing still to stand on it, 
why should we not be equally willing? For my life I cannot see, unless 
we are determined to have a quarrel with the North anyhow, on general 
account. If so, in behalf of common sense, let us put it upon more 
tenable grounds. These are abundant. For our own character s sake, 
let us make it upon the aggressive acts of our enemies, rather than any 
supposed short-comings of our friends, who have stood by us so steadfastly 
in so many constitutional struggles. In the name of patriotism and honor, 
let us not make it upon a point which may so directly subject us to the 
charge of breach of plighted faith. Whatever may befall us, let us ever 
be found, by friend or foe, as good as our word. These are my views, 
frankly and earnestly given. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 363 

" The great question, then, is, shall we stand by our principles, or shall 
we, cutting loose from our moorings where we have been safely anchored 
so many years, launch out again into unknown seas, upon new and perilous 
adventures, under the guide and pilotage of those who prove themselves 
to have no more fixedness of purpose or stability as to objects or policy 
than the shifting winds by which we shall be driven ? Let this question 
be decided by the Convention, and decided with that wisdom, coolness, and 
forecast which become statesmen and patriots. As for myself, I can say, 
whatever may be the course of future events, my judgment in this crisis 
is that we should stand by our principles through woe as well as through 
weal, and maintain them in good faith, now and always, if need be, until 
they, we, and the Republic perish together in a common ruin. I see no 
injury that can possibly arise to us from them, not even if the constitu 
tional impossibility of their containing squatter sovereignty did not 
exist, as has been conclusively demonstrated. For, if it did exist in them, 
and were all that its most ardent advocates claim for it, no serious prac 
tical danger to us could result from it. 

" Even according to that doctrine, we have the unrestricted right of 
expansion to the extent of population. It is admitted that slavery can, 
and will go, under its operation, wherever the people want it. Squatters 
carried it to Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and 
Arkansas, without any law to protect it, and to Texas against a law pro 
hibiting it, and they will carry it under this doctrine to all countries where 
climate, soil, productions, and population will allow. These are the nat 
ural laws that will regulate it under non-intervention, according to that 
construction ; and no act of Congress can carry it into any Territory 
against those laws, any more than it could make the rivers run to the 
mountains instead of the sea. If we have not enough of the right sort 
of population to compete longer with the North in the- colonization i_qf new. 
Territories and States, this deficiency can never be supplied by any such 
act of Congress as that now asked for. The attempt would be as vain as 
that of Xerxes to control the waters of the Hellespont by whipping them 
in his rage. 

" The times, as you intimate, do indeed portend evil. But I have no 
fears for the institution of slavery, either in the Union or out of it, if our 
people are but true to themselves, true, stable, and loyal to fixed prin 
ciples and settled policy ; and if they are not thus .true, I have little hope 
of anything good, whether the present Union last or a new one be formed. 
There is, in my judgment, nothing to fear from the irrepressible conflict 
of which we hear so much. Slavery rests upon great truths^which can 
never be successfully assailed by reason or argument. ^ It has grown 
stronger in the minds of men the more it has been discussed, and it will 
still grow stronger as the discussion proceeds and time rolls on. Truth 
is omnipotent and^ must prevail. We have only to maintain the truth 
with firmness and wield It aright. "Our system rests upon an impregnable 



364 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

basis, that can and will defy all assaults from without. My greatest 
apprehension is from, causes within, there lies the greatest danger. ~We 
Have grown luxuriant in the exuberance of our well-being and unparalleled 
prosperity. There is a tendency everywhere, not only at the North, but 
at the South, to strife, dissension, disorder, and anarchy. It is against 
this tendency that the sober-minded and reflecting men everywhere should 
now be called upon to guard. 

__^My opinion t then t ,is that delegates ought to be sent to the adjourned 
Convention at Baltimore. The demand made at Charleston by the seceders 
ought not to be insisted upon. Harmony being restored on this point, a 
nomination can doubtless be made of some man whom the party, every 
where, can support, with the same zeal and the same ardor with which 
they entered and waged the contest in 1856, when the same principles 
were involved. 

" If, in this, there be a failure, let the responsibility not rest upon us. 
Let our hands be clear of all blame. Let there be no cause for casting 
censure at our door. If, in the end, the great national Democratic party, 
the strong ligament which has so long bound and held the Union to 
gether, shaped its policy and controlled its destinies, and to which we 
have so often looked with a hope that seldom failed, as the only party 
North on which to rely, in the most trying hours when constitutional 
rights were in peril, let it not be said to us, in the midst of the disasters 
that in ay ensue, you did it ! In any and every event, let not the reproach 
of Punic faith rest upon our name. If everything else has to go down, 
let our untarnished honor, at least, survive the wreck. 

"ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS." 

In a letter of May 23d, to K. M. J., lie writes : 

" I greatly fear that our friends in Athens, as well as elsewhere, have 
sowed the wind and may reap a whirlwind beyond their control. I have 
no idea that , or , or thousands of others who favored this seces 
sion movement,* dreamed of the consequences of this misguided course of 
the counsels of those in whose judgment they placed confidence. All 
this I warned them of. I fear it is now too late to save them from the 
conflagration their random sparks, foolishly and wickedly scattered about 
in the midst of combustible materials, will bring upon us. What is to be 
the end I do not know : I cannot foresee. But if there ever was a time for 
wise, prudent, and firm men to speak out and put forth all their energies, 
that time is now. The indications now are that the American party in 
Georgia will not run Bell. They will fall in with the sectional organiza 
tion to be formed at Richmond. Should the great mass of the Democratic 
party South, or even a respectable portion, go that way, the nominee of 

* The secession of the Alabama, Georgia, and other delegations from the 
Charleston Convention. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 365 

the Baltimore Convention will be defeated, let him be who he may. The 
election will be thrown into the House, and in that event, in the present 
general distemper of the times, I doubt if we ever have another Presi 
dent of the United States. We certainly shall not, unless the men who 
have brought these evils upon us change their present line of policy. And 
if they do, they will then be denounced as bitterly for traitors as Douglas 



In the latter part of this month Mr. Stephens spent several 
days with Mr. Johnston at Athens, attending the Supreme Court. 
One morning during this visit he was suddenly struck with ver 
tigo, and afterwards suffered from it during the whole summer. 
Dr. Moore, of Athens, treated his case with nitric acid, from 
which he derived benefit ; but all the following letters of this 
year contain allusions to his bad health. 

On June 19th he writes, complaining of delays and irregu 
larities in the mails, which he is disposed to look upon as another 
instance of the disjointedncss of the times, and moral profligacy 
of public servants : 

a The post-office is beginning to be a nuisance. It is now the field for 
almost as much espionage and villainy, from the prying into a private note 
to the stealing of a package of bank-bills, as ever the same institution was 
in Spain, or is now in Cuba. ... I have no idea what will be done in 
Baltimore ; my conjecture is that they will blow up in a row. The seced- 
ers intended from the beginning to rule or ruin , and when they find that 
they cannot rule, they will then ruin. They have about enough power for 
this purpose ; not much more ; and I doubt not but they will use it. Envy, 
hate, jealousy, spite, these made the war in heaven, which made devils 
of angels, and the same passions will make devils of men. The secession 
movement was instigated by nothing but bad passions. Patriotism, in my 
opinion, had no more to do with it than love of Gnd had with the other 
revolt. ... I am always more or less an invalid in summer. Last year 
was the exception with me. I enjoyed better health that summer than I 
ever did in my life, taking the whole summer together. I have no hope 
of doing so well this summer, if ever again." 

July 12th. " I am surprised that anj^body could have supposed it pos 
sible for me to support-th^~sece3er8^_nomination. I_shiould have to kfet 
ouTTTry own record for several years past toUcTtliis. Others may eat their 
words, but I do not feed on such diet. It is to me the worst sign of the 
times to see so many of our public men doing this thing. The surest sign 
that a dog is going mad is to see him eat his own ordure ; and this eating 
of words and old party principles is, in my judgment, a like sign of ap- 



366 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

preaching rabies among the people. But good-by. I am out of politics, 
and mean to stay out." 

But notwithstanding his firm resolve to keep out of politics, 
and his very feeble health, his extreme anxiety at what he be 
lieved to be the greatest peril that had ever menaced the country 
drew him to take a part in the Presidential campaign of this 
year. Of these speeches only one has been reported, a very 
powerful address made in Augusta, on September 1st; and 
during its delivery he was compelled to pause for some minutes 
from sheer exhaustion. In it he announced his belief that in 
less than six months the country would be convulsed by war. 
His best friends thought that the weakness of his body had 
mounted to his head; while the less charitable said, "He is 
insane !" 

The excitement produced by the election of Mr. Lincoln, by 
a purely sectional vote, was intense, in Georgia as well as in the 
other Southern States. Not merely the fiery spirits who had 
long been desirous of a separation, but the more sober and far- 
seeing began to ask themselves what was the real value to the 
South of that Union which they had been accustomed to look 
upon almost with idolatry, as-if it were in itself an end, instead 
of being only the means toward an end. True, in the Union 
they had attained great prosperity ; but was this owing to the 
Union? Had it not, in truth, rather been accomplished in spite 
of it? One great advantage which the friends of the Union 
had always represented as cheaply purchased by the pecuniary 
sacrifice which this connexion entailed on the South, was the 
strength of the united republics against a foreign enemy. But 
in the two wars which had occurred since the Union was formed, 
the Northern States or a considerable portion of them had 
not only entered with reluctance, but had shown no equivocal 
symptoms of refusing to bear their share of the common burden. 
Supposing the Southern States attacked by a powerful foe, was 
it so very improbable that the North might decline all partici 
pation in the contest? nay, might they not make common cause 
with the enemy? The circumstances attending and following 
the atrocious attempt of John Brown, and the sympathy openly 
and widely expressed for that malefactor, made such a suspicion 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 367 

by no means unreasonable. Then the recent political victories, 
such as the passage of the Kansas Bill, what were they after all 
but the concession of the simplest rights, only won after the 
fiercest struggle, and held by the most precarious of tenures? 
Did such a Union offer sufficient advantages to tempt them to 
await the time, certainly not very far distant, when the North 
having obtained the requisite majority in both Houses of Con 
gress would have the South hopelessly at her mercy ? If, as 
even the most temperate conceded, such a state of affairs would 
justify separation, even though it had to be effected by arms, 
why wait, when every day increased the proportionate strength 
of their adversary ? 

It was while thoughts like these were beginning to force them 
selves upon even moderate and prudent men, that Mr. Stephens 
was invited by the Legislature of Georgia to give them his views 
and counsel in this great crisis ; and he addressed them on the 
14th of November. As this speech is one of the most important 
of his life, and fully illustrates his views, both as patriot and as 
statesman, we give it entire in the Appendix.* 

The effect produced by this speech was a general impression 
that it had given the quietus to secession in Georgia. The Hon. 
T. W. Thomas, a warm personal friend of Mr. Stephens, taking 
this view of the subject, and feeling deep mortification and cha 
grin at the expected result, believing that Lincoln s policy would 
be carried out without resistance, and that the institutions of the 
South would be overthrown, sought to revive his spirits by giving 
a social dinner at a hotel in the city. The guests, of whom Lin- 
ton Stephens was one, were all his special friends. The party 
sat over their wine until a late hour, when just before breaking 
up, Thomas called the head-waiter, a colored man, and taking 
from his pocket a silver dollar, said, in his peculiar vein of 

% 

* Appendix B. This speech was made off-hand, and the stenographic 
report is very imperfect. At its close, the Hon. Kobert Toombs, his dis 
tinguished opponent, arose and said, "Fellow-citizens, we have just listerjed 
to a speech from one of the brightest intellects and purest patriots that now 
lives. I move that this meeting now adjourn, with three cheers for Alex 
ander H. Stephens, of Georgia !" The applause thus invoked was tremen 
dous. 



368 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

solemn drollery, "Here, Charley, my friend, and soon to be my 
fellow-citizen, take this in remembrance of me; and when you 
come to your kingdom, do unto me as I do unto you." This 
was, in one sense, a true prophecy; but its fulfilment came from 
a source directly opposite to that which he had apprehended. 

We turn again to the correspondence : 

November 21st. " I see by the Constitutionalist 1 1 [the leading Demo 
cratic paper of the State] " of last night that my plan is not to be backed 
by that paper. It is going, I suppose, for immediate secession. What else 
to make of it I do not know. This disheartened me a good deal. I 
shall patiently wait for -further developments, and shall, in the mean time, 
hold on to my line of policy without wavering or faltering. I think it is 
right. If that paper is now following the lead of Mr. Toombs, as I ap 
prehend, I do not know what he meant by saying that he did not want the 
issue in our election to be made on union or disunion per se. Why did he 
say that he did not want any disunion man elected to the Convention ? 
Secession or separation and disunion mean the same thing. I do not see 
how, under the idea of the Constitutionalist, the Convention can be chosen 
but upon the issue of union or disunion without further effort. We have 

/indeed fallen upon sad times ; and I doubt if there is enough patriotism 
in this country to save us from anarchy, either in the Union or out of it." 

\~Noveniber 23d. "Yesterday evening I had a visit from Banks, formerly 
of the South Side Democrat (Virginia) ; more recently from Washington, 
a leading Douglas man in the late nomination and canvass. He was on 
his way from Alabama to Washington, and called to see me. His object 
seemed to be to get the run of Georgia politics, and to know what our 
State would do. He was much pleased with my late speech at Milledge- 
ville, and thinks that all the South, Virginia, Kentucky, and Maryland, 
could be brought to the line of policy therein indicated, if South Carolina 
could be induced to hold off from any separate rash action. He wished 
me to write to Governor Letcher, and get him to convene the Virginia 
Legislature at an earlier day than that announced, in order to send a 
Commission to South Carolina before their Convention sits. I told him 
that Letcher would see my speech ; and I did not think it would do any 
good to write to him." 

November SJfth. " We had a county meeting to-day. I gave them a 
talk, literally a talk. My cold and cough were so bad that I could not 
speak. The meeting was large, all parties out. We passed resolutions de 
claring Lincoln s election no cause for secession., and approving a call for a 
State Convention. My tall took well with the people. After this was all 
over^a motion was made to nominate candidates for the Convention. Monk 
moved that Judge Perkins and myself be unanimously nominated. This 
was done. But I do not yet know whether I shall go or not. I have not 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER 11. STEPHENS. 3$ 9 

made up my mind. I had no idea of any such nomination being made 
when I went over to the meeting." 

November 25th, "On my return last evening I got a great number of 
letters from all parts of the country, except the Western States. My 
speech, I find, has had the most general circulation at the North, I sup 
pose, of any speech ever made in the United States. . . . The great bulk 
of the letters I receive are in relation to it, and every one in the highest 
commendation, except one. That one was from a Georgia lady in New 
York. She don t like it. She is for immediate unconditional secession. 
Several of my letters are from Republicans ; one of them from one of 
Governor Banks aides, of Massachusetts. They all state that my demands 
will be granted. George P. Curtis, from Boston, an old Webster Whig, 
says that he believes Massachusetts will repeal her laws; that if our State 
would send a proper man there, it would, in his judgment, be done. They 
intend, at any rate, to make the effort ; and if they do not, we would be 
justified in quitting the Union. ... 1 have no doubt of our success, if we 
will seek the redress of our wrongs in the right spirit, and with an honest 
purpose. But my apprehension is that that is not the object of our agita 
tors. They do not wish a redress of our grievances. . . . We are, I fear, 
in the hands of those who are bent upon dissolution at all hazards. 
Nothing will satisfy them but to get out of the Union and form a separate 
government. I have great apprehension that this will be the prevailing 
sentiment of our Convention. The evil genius of civil discord seems to be 
rampant." 

November 30th. " I am daily becoming more and more confirmed in the 
opinion that all efforts to save the Union will be unavailing. The truth is, 
our leaders and public men who have taken hold of this question, do not 
desire to continue it on any terms. They do not wish any redress of 
wrongs ; they are disunionists per se, and avail themselves of present 
circumstances to press their objects; and my present conviction is that 
they will carry the State with them by a large majority. What I say on 
this point is for your own reflection only. I write just as I would talk to 
you, that you, for your own information, may know what I think of the 
ultimate course of events, and not with the view either to influence your 
judgment or that of others, much less their action, as might be the case 
were my opinions known, as my opinions may be erroneous. Let the 
popular will be as fairly represented as possible." 

December 3d. " Letters from all parts of the country continue to pour" 
in on me. I find it impossible to answer them all. Last night I got 
one from Richard Brodhead, of Pennsylvania, former Senator. He was 
greatly pleased with my speech, and gave it as his opinion that the present 
Republican Legislature of Pennsylvania would immediately, in January, 
repeal their Personal Liberty Laws. He thinks that if we would be 
moderate as well as firm, all will be right. Other letters, of the most 
fulsome character, I have received, from Memphis, Detroit, New York. 

24 



370 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

But I will say no more. I fear it will all come to nought; that it is too late 
to do anything 5 that the people are run mad. They are wild with passion 
and frenzy, doing they know not what. 

" This is a beautiful, clear, cool day, a big frost in the morning with a 
considerable freeze, but now pleasant and charming. The air is still, and 
all things look pleasant in the calm, placid sunshine. If I were well 
enough to be out in it, it seems that I should rejoice to walk abroad in such 
an elastic atmosphere. But I can only indulge in fancy as I peep through 
my windows, sitting as I am by a comfortable fire with Rio, poor fellow, 
sleeping at my feet. He has been looking for me to go out with him for 
some time, until he got wearied at that, and then, child-like, fell asleep." 

December 22d. " Frank tells me that some of the Taliaferro boys have 
been to Augusta this week. The minute-men down there are in a rage at 
Toombs s letter. They say that he has backed down, that they intend to 
vote him a tin sword. They call him a traitor. Poor fools ! So the world 
goes. I see that some of the secession papers have given him a severe 
railing. Mr. H. says his letter was the theme of constant talk on the cars, 
the fire-eaters generally discussing it, and saying that they never had any 
confidence in him or Cobb either. So the world again goes. These are 
but the indications of the fury of popular opinion when it once gets 
thoroughly aroused. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind." 

December 29th. " I got a letter from Douglas last night, requesting my 
opinion on certain propositions of adjustment he had submitted to the 
Senate. I shall write to him to-day, telling him that I have no idea that 
the South would be satisfied with them, the ultra men especially ; and I 
do not think any considerable portion of them would be [agreed to?]. 
I should not approve them myself. Better let all things remain as they 
are, so far as the Constitution is concerned. His proposition looks to 
constitutional amendments. The Constitution as it is, with a discharge of 
all its present obligations, is what I want." 

December 22d. (To R. M. J.) "I hear from divers quarters that 
Mr. Toombs s late letter is not well received by the precipitators, who 
call him all sorts of names. ... So far from his letter being any back 
down, I look upon it as a master-stroke to effect his object. He has 
more sense than any man in this movement. But from this effusion of 
indignation he ought to catch some slight glimmerings of what he may 
expect when his object is accomplished, and he attempts, as I doubt not 
he would, or will, to build up a new government on sound and correct 
principles. If the violent cannot now see his motive, how shall they 
appreciate his efforts hereafter? Just as the Mountain did Mirabeau in 
France." 

Among the letters which his speech at Milledgeville brought 
Mr. Stephens was a brief note from the President-elect, asking 
for a revised copy. Mr. Stephens replied, stating that he had 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 37 J 

not revised it further than looking over the reporter s notes, 
which were substantially correct. He concluded with the remark : 

"The country is certainly in great peril, and no man ever had heavier 
or greater responsibilities than you have in the present momentous crisis." 

Mr. Lincoln replied in a letter dated December 22d, and 
headed, "For your own eye only," an injunction strictly ob 
served by Mr. Stephens, until the close of the war and the 
death of Mr. Lincoln removed all necessity for further secrecy, 
of which these are the words : 

" MY DEAR SIR, Your obliging answer to my short note is just received, 
and for which please accept my thanks. I fully appreciate the present 
peril the country is in, and the weight of responsibility on me. 

" Do the people of the South really entertain fears that a Republican 
Administration would, directly or indirectly, interfere with the slaves, or 
with them about the slaves ? If they do, I wish to assure you, as once a 
friend, and still, I hope, not an enemy, that there is no cause for such fears. 

"The South would be in no more danger in this respect than it was in 
the days of Washington f" I ~ suppose, however, that does not meet the 
case. You think slavery is right., and ought to be extended ; while we 
think it is wrong, and ought to be abofished. That, t srrppoFe, is the rub. 
It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. 

" Yours very truly, A. LINCOLN." 

Mr. Stephens s reply was as follows : 

" CRAWFORDVILLE, GEORGIA, 30th December, 1860. 

"DEAR SIR, Yours of the 22d instant was received two days ago. I 
hold it and appreciate it as you intended. Personally, I am not your 
enemy, far from it ; and however widely we may differ politically, yet 
I trust we both have an earnest desire to preserve and maintain the 
Union of the States if it can be done upon the principles and furtherance 
of the objects for which it was formed. It was with such feelings on my 
part that I suggested to you in my former note the heavy responsibility 
now resting upon you, and with the same feelings I will now take the 
liberty of saying, in all frankness and earnestness, that this great object 
can never be obtained by force. This is my settled conviction. Consider 
the opinion, weigh it, and pass upon it for yourself. An error on this 
point may lead to the most disastrous consequences. I will also add, 
that in my judgment the people of the South do not entertain any fears 
that a Republican Administration, or at least the one about to be inaugu 
rated, would attempt to interfere directly and immediately with slavery 
in the States. Their apprehension and disquietude do not spring from 
that source. They do not arise from the fact of the known anti-slavery 



372 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

opinions of the President-elect. Washington. Jefferson, and other Presi 
dents are generally admitted to have been anti-slavery in sentiment. But 
in those days anti-slavery did not enter as an element into party organi 
zations. 

" Questions of other kinds, relating to the foreign and domestic policy, 
commerce, finance, and other legitimate objects of the General Govern 
ment. were the basis of such associations in their day. The private 
opinions of individuals upon the subject of African slavery, or the status 
of the negro with us, were not looked to in the choice of Federal officers 
any more than their views upon matters of religion, or any other subject 
over which the Government under the Constitution had no control. But 
now this subject, which is confessedly on all sides outside of the consti 
tutional action of the Government, so far as the States are concerned, is 
made the central idea in the platform of principles announced by the 
triumphant party. The leading object seems to be simply, and wantonly, 
if , you please, to put the institutions of nearly half the States under the 
ban of public opinion and national condemnation. This, upon general 
principles, is quite enough of itself to arouse a spirit not only of general 
indignation, but of revolt on the part of the proscribed. Let me illustrate. 
It is generally conceded, by the Republicans even, that Congress cannot 
interfere with slavery in the States. It is equally conceded that Congress 
cannot establish any form of religious worship. Now suppose that any one 
of the present Christian churches or sects prevailed in all the Southern 
States, but had no existence in any one of the Northern States, under such 
circumstances, suppose the people of the Northern States should organize 
a political party, not upon a foreign or domestic policy, but with one 
leading idea of condemnation of the doctrines and tenets of that particular 
church, and with the avowed object of preventing its extension into the 
common Territories, even after the highest judicial tribunal of the land 
had decided they had no such constitutional power. And suppose that a 
party so organized should carry a Presidential election. Is it not apparent 
that a general feeling of resistance to the success, aims^ and objects of 
such a party would necessarily and rightfully ensue ? Would it not be 
the inevitable consequence? And the more so, if possible, from the 
admitted fact that it was a matter beyond their control, and one that they 
ought not in the spirit of comity between co-States to attempt to meddle 
with. I submit these thoughts to you for your calm reflection. We at 
the South do think African slavery, as it exists with us, both morally and 
politically right. This opinion is founded upon the inferiority of the 
black race. You, however, and perhaps a majority of the North, think it 
wrong. Admit the difference of opinion. The same difference of opinion 
existed to a more general extent among those who formed the Constitution, 
and when it was made and adopted. The changes have been mainly to 
our side. As parties were not formed on this difference of opinion then, 
why should they be now? The same difference would, of course, exist 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 373 

in the supposed case of religion. When parties or combinations of men, 
therefore, so form themselves, must it not be assumed to arise, not from 
reason or any sense of justice, but from fanaticism? The motive can 
spring from no other source, and when men come under the influence of 
fanaticism there is no telling where their impulses or passions may drive 
them. This is what creates our discontent and apprehension. You will 
also allow me to say that it is neither unnatural nor unreasonable, 
especially when we see the extent to which this. reckless spirit has already 
gone. Such, for instance, as the avowed disregard and breach of the 
Constitution in the passage of the statutes in a number of the Northern 
States against the renxlition of fugitives from service, and such exhibitions 
of madness as the John Brown raid into Virginia, which has received so 
much sympathy from many, and no open condemnation from any of the 
leading men of the present dominant party. For a very clear statement 
of the prevailing sentiment of the most moderate men of the South upon 
them I refer you to the speech of Senator Nicholson, of Tennessee, which 
I inclose to you. Upon a review of the whole, who can say that the 
general discontent and apprehension prevailing is not well founded? 

" In addressing you thus, I would have you understand me as being not 
a personal enemy, but as one who would have you do what you can to save 
our common country. A word fitly spoken by you now would indeed 
be like apples of gold in pictures of silver. I entreat you be not de 
ceived as. to the nature and extent of the danger, nor as to the remedy. 
Conciliation and harmony, in my judgment, can never be established by 
force. Norcan the Union under the Constitution be maintained by force, 
The Union was formed by the consent of independent sovereign States. 
Ultimate sovereignty still resides with them separately, which can be re 
sumed, and will be, if their safety, tranquillity, and security, in their, 
judgment, require it. Under our system, as I view it, there is no rightful 
power in the General Government to coerce a State, in case any one of 
them should throw herself upon her reserved rights and resume the full 
exercise of her sovereign powers. Force may perpetuate a Union. That 
depends upon the contingencies of waii\ But such a Union would not be 
the Union of the Constitution. It would be nothing short of a consoli 
dated despotism. Excuse me for giving you these views. Excuse the 
strong language used. Nothing but the deep interest I feel in prospect of 
the most alarming dangers now threatening our common country could 
induce me to do it. Consider well what I write, and let it have such 
weight with you as in your judgment, under all the responsibility resting 
upon you, it merits. 

" Yours respectfully, 

"ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS." 



CHAPTER XXXIV. 

Feeling at the South Secession of South Carolina Conventions called by 
the other States Views of Mr. Stephens Real Causes of Complaint 
Secession Rightful, but not Expedient Will abide by his State Thoughts 
and Memories A Storm and a Speech Break-up of the Cabinet Fort 
Pulaski secured Convention at Milledgeville Speech Ordinance of 
Secession passed A Forged Speech Sent to Montgomery Formation 
of the Provisional Government Elected Yice-President Inaugurated 
The Constitution Toombs and Cobb Relations with Mr. Davis An 
ticipations. 

EVENTS were now hurrying rapidly to a catastrophe. Con 
sidering the election of Mr. Lincoln, the first candidate for the 
Presidency who had offered himself as the representative of one 
section only, and the victorious champion of a party which 
openly professed hostility to the Southern States and their insti 
tutions, as the declaration of a settled purpose to carry that hos 
tility into the Administration of the Federal Government, most 
of the leaders of public opinion at the South were convinced 
that the rights of the Southern States were no longer secure in 
the Union, and that their only safety lay in separation. 

South Carolina immediately called a Sovereign Convention of 
the people, which, on December 20th, 1860, unanimously passed 
an Ordinance of Secession, repealing the. ordinance which ratified 
the Constitution in 1788, and thus restoring South Carolina to 
the position of a separate and independent sovereign State. The 
six States of Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, 
and Texas followed the example of South Carolina, and called 
Conventions. That of Georgia was called to meet at Milledge 
ville on January 16th. The letters to Linton will show the 
further progress of events, and the views and action of Mr. 
Stephens at this critical time. 

January 1st. " It is night. I have just received your letter. I think 
the views you give as to the outline of what you intend to say to-niorrow, 
374 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 375 

so far as relates to the course our own State ought to take, and the policy 
she ought to pursue towards South Carolina, are entirely correct. This 
letter, of course, you will not get until after your speech and until the 
election is over. But I assure you I feel the deepest concern in the prog 
ress of events on the other side of the Savannah River. By force of cir 
cumstances they will necessarily involve the interests and fate of Georgia. 
" I have read the address put forth by the Convention at Charleston to 
the Southern States. It has not impressed me favorably. In it South.. 
Carolina clearly shows that it is not her intention to be satisfied with any 
redress of grievances. Indeed, she hardly deigns to specify any. The 
Slavery question is almost entirely ignored. Her greatest complaint seems 
to be the Tariff, though there is but little intelligent or intelligible thought 
on that subject. Perhaps the less she said about it the better. For the 
present tariff from which she secedes is just what her own Senators and 
members in Congress made it. There are general and vague charges 
about consolidation, despotism, etc., and the South having, under the oper 
ation of the General Government, been reduced to a minority incapable of 
protecting itself, etc. This complaint I do not think well founded. It 
arises more from a spirit of peevishness or restless fretfulness than from 
calm and deliberate judgment. The truth is, the South, almost in mass, 
has voted, I think, for every measure of general legislation that has passed 
both Houses and become law for the last ten years. (^Indeed, with but few 
exceptions, the South has controlled the Government in its every impor 
tant action from the beginning^/ The protective policy was once, for a 
time, carried against the South ; but that was subsequently completely 
changed. Our policy ultimately prevailed. The South put in power 
or joined a united country in putting in power and sustaining the Adminis 
tration of Washington for eight years. She put in and sustained Jeffer 
son eight years, Madison eight years, Jackson eight years, Van Buren four 
years, Tyler four years, Polk four years, Pierce four years, and Buchanan 
four years. That is, they have aided in making and sustaining the Admin 
istration for sixty years out of the seventy-two of the Government s ex 
istence. "T)oes this look like we were or are in an abject minority at the 
mercy of a despotic Northern majority, rapacious to rob and plunder us? 
It is true we are in a minority, and have been a long time. It is true also 
that a party at the North advocate principles which would lead to a des 
potism, and they would rob us if they had the power, I have no doubt of 
that. But by the prudent and wise counsels of Southern statesmen this 
party has been kept in the minority in the past, and by the same prudent 
and wise statesmanship on our part I can but hope and think it can be so for 
many long years to come. Sound Constitutional men enough at the North 
have been found to unite with the South to keep that dangerous and mis 
chievous faction in a minority. And though Lincoln has J>een elected, it 
ought to be recollected that he has succeedecTByli minority vote, and even 
this was the result of a dissension in the ranks of the Conservatives or 



376 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

Constitutional men North and South ; a most unfortunate and lamentable 
event, and the more so from the fact that it was designedly effected by men 
who wished to use it for ulterior ends and objects. 

" Now we have real causes of complaint against the North, or at least 
against certain States of the North, causes which, if not redressed, would 
justify the extreme course, the ultima ratio, on the part of the South. 

I These, however, are barely glanced at in the South Carolina address. 
These causes are the Personal Liberty Acts, as they are called, in several 
of the Northern States. Other acts of their Legislatures which openly 
and avowedly refuse obedience to, or compliance with, their constitutional 
obligation to return fugitive slaves. These acts are in flagrant violation 
cf constitutional obligations ; and they constitute the only cause, in my 

(opinion, which can justify secession. All other complaints are founded 
on threatened dangers which may never come, and which I feel very sure 
could be averted if the South would pursue a judicious and wise course. 
Whether we ought to secede in consequence of the faithlessness of those 
Northern States alluded to is simply a question of policy. It is one on 
which able men and true may differ. One thing is certain : the South 
would be justified in doing it. For nothing is better settled by all law, 
recognized by savage as well as by civilized people, than that a compact 
broken by on-e party to it is not binding on the other. But if we secede, 
I should like to see it put on the right ground ; and while I think the 
ground would fully justify the act, yet I do not. think it would at present 
be wise to resort to that remedy. For I feel confident that, if we should 
adopt the right course, those States would recede and repeal their obnox 
ious statutes. Hence I am mortified and grieved when I read such papers 
as the South Carolina manifesto. It is not on the right line. 

" But I am grieved at almost everything I see and hear every day. The 
times are fearfully distempered. I am fully persuaded of one thing, and 
that is, there is no power on earth that can bring any good out of the 
present state of things. The progress of events cannot be arrested. I 
tell you now, as you cannot get this until after your election, and it cannot, 
therefore, influence your action in the matter. If you were not a candi 
date I should not allow my name to be used to-morrow for the Convention. 
I have no desire to be in that body. I have a repugnance to the idea. I 
believe the State will go for secession, have believed it ever since I left 
Milledgeville. I have no wish to be in a body of men that will give that 
vote. My judgment does not approve it. But when the State acts I shall 
abide by her decision^ with the fidelity of one who imagines he feels the 
dictates of patriotism as sensibly and as strongly as any one who ever 
breathed the breath of life. 

" I must confess in the darkness and gloom that hang upon the future 
I see no prospect and but little hope for good government ever again in 
this country, North or South. The mischievous faction at the North will 
bear sway there. /^Constitutional liberty they never understood, or did not 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 377 



like, if they did.} How it will be with us at the South time must disclose : 
but when our public men act so unwisely under present circumstances, 
I cannot hope for much under their rule in the days of real peril. We are 
on the high road to ruin I verily believe. How far a man can, consistently 
with a proper sense of duty to his country, abandon it to its fate when he 
sees its fate inevitable, I will not undertake to say. But this country, as 
it was and has been, is entirely demoralized if not ruined. It is bevond 
the power of salvation. If I am elected, and you are, I shall go to the 
Convention simply to share your fate, and to link my destiny with yours 
and that of our State, just as I would, if I could, in the blow-up of a 
steamer at sea, get on the same fragment of the wreck with you and other 
dear ones, that w r e might in the last hour have the consolation of going 
down together. 

" I am communing with you now as I do with no one else ; and I would 
not have you mention my feeling to any one. I would give no one 
unnecessary pain in the anticipation of impending evils. Let all enjoy 
themselves who can ; all indulge better hopes who can. Despair is a ter 
rible feeling for one who has not the nerve to bear it. I feel as if I can 
bear anything. After all, perhaps what I apprehend will not take place. 
Don t, therefore, let what I write affect your cheerfulness. It may be a 
misfortune to have our lives cast upon such evil times. (JkTt still we have 
duties to perform, and these should be performed, to the best of our abili 
ties, with fidelity under all circumstances, whether of good or eviLAAll that 
a man can do is to discharge his own duty, whatever that mTTy be. This 
I shall do, to the best of my understanding of it, in whatever fortunes 
betide me or the country. I have ceased to put much confidence in our 
public men. Most of them are destitute of principle. I will not particu 
larize. It is painful to me to think of it. 

" To-day, after reading Judge Ezzard s late letter, coming out for imme 
diate secession, on the back of Judge Nisbefs speech in Macon, to drown 
my thoughts on these disagreeable subjects, I took a long walk. The 
evening was cloudy, cold, and bleak. But I felt as if I wanted to get 
away from all company , human company and human society at least. I 
took my poor old blind dog, string in hand, and sought solitude. I went 
through the old fields over on the Berry Little place, through the pines, 
sighing in the chill wind. I went until I came to the Bristow place, the 
place your grandmother settled. Old memories were here awakened. I 
approached the old houses. What a wreck was before me ! The inclosures 
and fences were all down. I went up to the spot where I first met you 
on my first visit to your grandmother after you went there to live. You 
were then a very little boy. You had run out at the gate to meet me. Do 
you remember the time and the spot? There this evening I stood and 
gazed on all around me. Emotions, deep and strong, swelled my breast, 
and for a time public affairs were all lost in contemplations of another 
sort. 



378 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

"Rio, though sightless and almost deaf, seemed to be impressed, through 
some strange instinct, with the agitations of my mind. lie whined in 
sympathy, and raised a mournful howl. I was looking at the old house, 
in all its present dilapidation and ruin, the doors all broken down, and 
rooms now become a shelter for stray goats and sheep in foul weather. A 
few old peach-trees stood, the survivors of the orchard. A lonely cedar, 
on the edge where the yard used to be, remains to the memory of some 
kind hand that planted it. These scenes I had in full view when Rio gave 
utterance to his sympathetic melancholy howl. Aroused by this, I went 
on to the spring, leading him by the string down the rough hill-side path. 
That bold and pure fountain of cool waters in other days I found all 
covered with mud and sand. What a change in all things about this once 
human habitation from what I saw on my first visit to it ! How changed 
those who imparted so much life and cheerfulness to this now dreary and 
desolate place ! Many of them gone to the grave, all of them, I believe, 
but yourself, all gone from the land of the living. . . . 

"With these reflections I wended my way back through the woods, the 
pines, and old fields, with a heart as bare, as desolate, and as shattered as 
the waste places I had been gazing and meditating upon. But enough of 
these gloomy midnight thoughts. Good-by. My best wishes attend you 
now and forever. It may be that I am too desponding as to the fate of 
our country. I hope and trust I am ; but I give you my feelings as they 
are and have been for some time." 

January 3d. This letter was written the day after the elec 
tion of delegates to the Convention. There had been a violent 
storm the day before, and Mr. Stephens remarked to a friend 
that this storm had cost the Conservative party at least ten 
thousand votes, and that the State was committed to secession. 

"Yesterday was an awful day. The elements of nature seemed to be 
in accordance with the distemper of the times. I suffered severely with 
a headache, and should not have gone out, but was sent for to go to the 
court-house to make a speech. I went up, found about one hundred 
persons standing about, some by the stove, some on the stair-steps, some 
in the jury-boxes, all dripping with wet, and exhibiting as hopeless a 
spectacle of men in dark and doubt, oppressed with some appalling calamity 
about to come upon them, as I ever beheld. 

U I gave them a talk of about an hour and a half. The speech was well 
received by a large majority, though I gave them but little encouragement. 
I gave them many illustrations, but above all guarded them against panic. 
There was nothing to cause real alarm. If the worst came 4 , we were 
abundantly able to defend and protect ourselves. The greatest danger 
was from fear or panic. I felt none of it. The sensation telegraphs from 
Washington had no effect on me. As to what our Convention would do. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 379 

or ought to do I could not tell them, that depended upon circumstances 
to be disclosed. All that I could say as to myself was that I should keep 
two things constantly in view. The first was the right, honor, safety, and 
security of Georgia, that I should maintain at all hazards and to the last 
extremity. The" second was the maintenance of the Union, if it could be 
done consistently with the other object. If I became satisfied that this 
could not be done, then I was for taking such measures as would by 
co-operation with other States lead to another Union on the basis of the 
present Federal Constitution, taking within it all who would comply with 
its existing obligations. I thought the Constitution as it is good enough. 
I saw no necessity for any new guaranty. South Carolina seems to think 
so too. She wants the Southern States to unite with her upon that ; and 
if that be the basis, we have the admission of the present States, Con 
gress could not ask any but the adoption of the fundamental law of 
union, etc. 

41 When I got through, J II cried out Three cheers for South 

Carolina ! This he repeated three or four times, but got no response. . . . 

" Yesterday was the worst day for an election I ever saw in Georgia. 
It has told greatly against the Conservative cause, I have no doubt. It 
really appears as if Providence was on the other side. From the begin 
ning of this movement last spring every incident of what is termed luck 
seems to be against the Conservatives. I call it Providence. My reading 
of it is that a severe chastisement for sins of ingratitude and other crimes 
is about to be inflicted upon us, when the wicked rule the nation mourns. 
We are about to suffer as we have never suffered before. This is my 
apprehension. 

" I received the following despatch from Mr. at ten o clock to-night: 

" WASHINGTON, Jan. 1, 61, 3 o clock P.M. 

" Cabinet broken up. Floyd and Thompson out. Coercion policy adopted by 
Administration. Holt, our bitter foe, Secretary of War. Fort Pulaski in danger. 
Abolitionists defiant. " 

Mr. Stephens was strongly disinclined to go to the Convention, 
but finally concluded to do so. On the 10th lie wrote to his 
brother as follows : 

" I look upon it as a fixed fact that the South will secede, and have been 
of that opinion ever since I was at Milledgeville. I saw that we were 
borne along upon currents that there was no hope of resisting. But I am 
just as firm in my judgment that the policy is wrong as I was then. 
What course I shall take will depend upon circumstances and what line 
is presented by the majority. I should like for unanimity to prevail ; but 
it never can be on such a manifesto as South Carolina put forth, or on 
such a resolution as passed the Alabama Convention/ I shall maintain 
my principles to the last, let what may come. n ^) 



380 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

The Convention met at Milledgeville on the 16th of January, 
and Mr. Stephens and his brother were present. The most im 
portant question brought before that body except the Ordi 
nance of Secession itself was the substitute for that Ordinance 
drawn up by the Hon. Herschel V. Johnson (former candidate 
for the Vice-Presidency of the United States on the Douglas 
ticket), after consultation with Alexander and Linton Stephens. 
After recapitulating the grievances of which the South com 
plained, this paper proposed that the Convention should invite 
the ten Southern Slates still in the Union, and " the Independ 
ent Republics of South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, and Mis 
sissippi," to send respectively delegates and commissioners to 
meet the delegates from the State of Georgia in a Congress at 
Atlanta on the 16th of February, to take into consideration the 
^existing state of affairs, and determine on a course of action. 
/While refraining from making any formal demand on the 
i^orthern States for the repeal of the " Personal Liberty Acts," 
the State of Georgia announced her unalterable determination 
to sever her connection with those States unless those acts were 
repealed7">nd she pledged herself, in the case of the Federal 
Government undertaking to coerce any of the seceded States in 
the mean time, to make common cause with such State or States. 
Finally, if all efforts failed to secure the rights of the State of 
Georgia in the Union, it was announced that she would resume 
her separate independence, and unite with the seceded States. 

When this paper was offered, Mr. Stephens supported it in 
the following words : 

" Mr. President, It is well known that my judgment is against seces 
sion for existing causes. I have not lost hope of securing our rights in 
the Union and under the Constitution. My judgment on this point is as 
unshaken as it was when the Convention was called. I do not now r intend 
to go into any arguments on the subject. No good could be effected by it. 
That w r as fully considered in the late canvass ; and I doubt not every dele 
gate s mind is made up on the question. I have thought, and still think, 
that w r e should not take this extreme step before some tpositive aggression 
upon our rights by the General Government, which may never occur ; or 
until we fail, after effort made, to get a faithful performance of their con 
stitutional obligations, on the part of those confederate States w r hich now 
stand so derelict in their plighted faith. I have been, and am still opposed 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 33! 

to secession as a remedy against anticipated aggressions on the part of the 
Federal Executive or Congress.* ^ have held, and do now hold, that the 
point of resistance should be the point of aggression?^ 

" Pardon me, Mr. President, for trespassing on ^our time but for a mo 
ment longer. I have ever believed, and do now believe, that it is to the 
interest of all the States to be and remain united under the Constitution 
of the United States, with a faithful performance by each of all its con 
stitutional obligations. If the Union could be maintained on this basis, 
and on these principles, I think it would be the best for the security, the 
liberty, happiness, and common prosperity of all. I do further feel con 
fident, if Georgia would now stand firm, and unite with the Border States, 
as they are called, in an effort to obtain a redress of those grievances on 
the part of some of their Northern confederates, whereof they have such 
just cause to complain, that complete success would attend their efforts, 
our just and reasonable demands would be granted. In this opinion I may 
be mistaken, but I feel almost as confident of it as I do of my existence. 
Hence, if upon this test vote, which I trust will be made upon the motion 
now pending, to refer both the propositions before us to a committee of 
twenty-one, a majority shall vote to commit them, then I shall do all I can 
to perfect the plan of united Southern co-operation, submitted by the hon 
orable delegate from Jefferson, and put it in such a shape as will, in the 
opinion of the Convention, best secure its object. That object, as I under 
stand it, does not look to secession by the 16th of February, or the 4th of 
March, if redress should not be obtained by that time. In my opinion it 
cannot be obtained by the 16th of February, or even the 4th of March. 
But by the 16th of February we can see whether the Border States and 
other non-seceding Southern States will respond to our call for the pro 
posed Congress or Convention #t Atlanta. If they do, as I trust they may, 
then/fnat body, so composed of representatives, delegates, or commission 
ers, as contemplated, from the whole of the slaveholding States, could, 
and would, I doubt not, adopt either our plan or some other, which would 
fully secure our rights with ample guaranties, and thus preserve and 
maintain the ultimate peace and union of the States) Whatever plan of 
peaceful adjustment might be adopted by such a Congress I feel confident 
would be acceded to by the people of every Northern State. This would 
not be done in a month, or two months, or perhaps short of twelve months, 
or even longer. Tung frnnld npn.flpM.ri1y htpft fn V>P allowed for a consid 
eration of the questions submitted to tlio |.-opl of the Northern States, 
and for their deliberate action on them in view of all their interests, pres 
ent and future. How long a time should be allowed would be a proper 
question for that Congress to determine. Meanwhile, this Convention 
could continue its existence by adjourning over to hear and decide upon 
the ultimate result of this patriotic effort. 

"My judgment, as is well known, is against the policy of immediate 
secession for any existing causes. It cannot receive the sanction of my 



382 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

vote ; but if the judgment of a majority of this Convention, embodying as 
it does the Sovereignty of Georgia, be against mine ; if a majority of the 
delegates in "this Convention shall, by their votes, dissolve the compact of 
union which has connected her so long with her confederate States, and 
to which I have been so ardently attached, and have made such efforts to 
continue and to perpetuate upon the principles on which it was founded, 
I shall bow in submission to that decision." 

In reference to his views at this time, Mr. Stephens elsewhere 
remarks : 

" I did not attach any serious importance to the fact that the equality 
which had so long been maintained in the number of the non-slaveholding 
and slaveholding States no longer existed. It is true the loss of that 
equilibrium, or balance of power, as it was called, caused many at the 
time to come to the conclusion that the slaveholding States could not, with 
safety to themselves, remain longer in the Union without some additional 
guaranty. This was the belief of Mr. Callioun.vJSut the only true equi 
librium, or balance of power, in my opinion, under our system, which it 
was essential to maintain, was tl\e recognized Sovereignty of the several 
States. This was the all-powerful check against aggression upon the rights 
of any State. This was the complete regulator of the entire system^ This 
was my view on the admission of California, as it was on the admission of 
Oregon. The result showed that, so far from the admission of those States 
working injuriously to the interests of the slaveholding States, by the loss 
of the balance of power, so called, California and Oregon became their 
allies on all these great constitutional questions. California and Oregon 
were as strongly opposed to the doctrines of the centralists as the Southern 
States were. 

The substitute was rejected by the Convention, and the Ordi 
nance for immediate secession passed by a vote of 208 to 89, Mr. 
Stephens voting " no." It was then moved that all the dele 
gates should sign the Ordinance; but before the motion was put 
to the vote, Linton Stephens, who also had voted against the 
Ordinance, drew up and presented to the Convention the follow 
ing preamble and resolution : 

11 Whereas, The lack of unanimity in the action of this Convention in the 
passage of the Ordinance of Secession indicates a difference of opinion 
among the members of this Convention, not so much as to the rights which 
Georgia claims, or the wrongs of which she complains, as to the remedy 
and its application before a resort to other means of redress : 

" And whereas, It is desirable to give expression to that intention which 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 383 

really exists among all the members of this Convention, to sustain the 
State in the course of action which she has pronounced to be proper for 
the occasion ; therefore, 

" Resolved, That all members of this Convention, including those who 
voted against the said Ordinance as well as those who voted for it, will 
sign the same as a pledge of the unanimous determination of this Conven 
tion to sustain and defend the State, in this her chosen remedy, with all 
its responsibilities and consequences, without regard to individual approval 
or disapproval of its adoption." 

This preamble and resolution were carried at once without a 
count, and all the delegates present, including Mr. Stephens, 
signed the Ordinance, except six, who entered on the journal a 
declaration of their purpose to yield to the will of the majority 
of the people of the State. 

Mr. Stephens was shortly afterwards elected to the Provisional 
Government at Montgomery, much against his wish, and he 
hesitated for some days whether or not to accept. He finally 
concluded to go, provided the Convention would pass two reso 
lutions which he offered, touching the mode of organization of 
the Provisional Government, and the subsequent formation of a 
Permanent Government "upon the principles and basis .of the 
Constitution of the United States." These resolutions having 
passed with great unanimity, Mr. Stephens felt it to be " his 
duty to do all that he could to preserve and perpetuate the 
principles of our Federal system/ 7 and consequently accepted 
the position. 

It may be as well to mention here that the speech given above 
was the only one made by Mr. Stephens in the Convention on the 
subject of secession. A speech purporting to have been made by 
him, and extensively circulated in the North in 1864, was a mere 
forgery, contrived in that section for political purposes. 

We now tatfe up the correspondence with R. M. J. : 

February 2d. " Time rolls on rapidly, and each day brings with it a 
heavy load on me of unlooked-for duties. Only a month has passed, I be 
lieve, since I wrote to you, and now I have but a moment to devote to your 
service. In this moment I can say nothing that I could wish to say and 
would say, if I had time, of those great events that have happened since 
I saw you. I am going, as you see, to Montgomery. I am to start to- 



384 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 



morrow night, and am now very busy getting ready\It was with great 
reluctance, I assure you, I undertook this duy>v It wasonTy from a sense 
of duty, upon the urgent solicitations of a great many members of the 
Convention, representing the wishes, I was satisfied, of nine-tenths of the 
bod} 7 , that I should go. But one man voted against it, that man was 

my old friend . I expected nothing else from him, and he perhaps was 

right in his vote. My own feelings were as averse to my going as his 
could possibly have been. I yielded to others just as I did last year when 
I consented to the use of my name as an Elector at large on the Douglas 
ticket in our State. I did not think any good would come from that con 
sent, and I don t now think any good will come of_yielding in this instance 
to like earnest entreaties on the part of others. C I have, however, yielded, 
and I will perform the duty to the best of my ability^jtly apprehension 
and distrust of the future arises from the want of high integrity, loyalty 
to principle, and pure, disinterested patriotism in the men at the head of 
the movement, who necessarily control it, at least for the present) This 
is a melancholy truth. It is with pain I write it. I would not write it to 
any one where the utterance of it could be of any public injury ; but to 
you I may and will express myself as I feel. And to show that what I 
have said does no injustice to any, I can bring a great array of evidence. 
. . . My word for it, this country is in a great deal worse condition than 
the. people are at all aware of. What is to become of us I do not know. 
I shall go to Montgomery, do all I can to prevent mischief, if possible. 
and if the new Government shall be successfully launched, as I sincerely 
hope it may be, then I shall again go into that retirement so congenial to 
my feelings, t If my efforts in this last movement shall fail. if I see no 
prospect of domg good at Montgomery. I shall retire and give up all as 
lost) Don t think me desponding, I write to you exactly as I feel : and 
what I write is for yourself alone. Whatever feelings of despondency I 
have in looking to the future come from my knowledge of the men in 
whose hands we are likely to fall. They are selfish , ambitious, and un 
scrupulous. Republics cannot be built up or successfully administered 
without the strictest and sternest virtue and purest patriotism on the part 
of those at the head of affairs." 

A brief note written later on the same day, seems to have been 
intended as a partial corrective to the tone of the former, that 
the floods of Cocytns might not roll altogether over the soul of 
his correspondent. 

"I was rather dispirited when I wrote you my long letter to-day. You 
must make some allowance for that. I am still in the same depressed state 
of mind, and have been ever since the burst-up at Charleston. I shall, 
however, continue to hope for the best and strive for the best, as I have all 
along been doing, while I shall still be prepared in mind for the worst." 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 335 

Montgomery, February 5tk. " Nothing was done after organization ex 
cept the appointment of a Committee to prepare and report rules. This 
was on my motion, and of course I was put on the Committee, though I 
requested Cobb [Howell Cobb, President of the Provisional Government] 
not to do it. I did not wish to be on it. I made the motion merely be 
cause the crowd generally seemed green and not to know how to proceed. 
South Carolina and Mississippi had instructed their delegations to vote by 
States ; and Louisiana members said the same of their State. I saw, there 
fore, that there was no doing anything until some rules of proceeding were 
adopted. The Committee appointed was Stephens, Keitt, Curry, Harrison, 
of Mississippi, and Perkins, of Louisiana. All were in my parlor last 
night except Curry, who sent word that he was sick. Before they came 
I had drawn up a set of rules which I submitted to them, and, with one 
or two exceptions, they were adopted by the Committee. I culled them 
partly from the rules of the United States Senate and House of Represent 
atives, and there were some entirely new ones that I introduced. After 
the report was agreed upon, I went to the printing-office, after ten o clock 
at night, and got them to promise to strike off fifty copies by twelve o clock 
to-day for me, at my expense." 

February 9th. " We agreed last night at about midnight to a Constitu 
tion for a Provisional Government for the Confederate States. That is 
the name. It is the Constitution of the United States, with such changes 
as are necessary to meet the exigencies of the times. Two^ new features 
have been introduced by me: one, leaving out the cTause that excluded 
Cabinet Ministers from being members of Congress ; the other, that Con 
gress should not have power to appropriate any money unless it be asked 
for by the Executive or some one of the heads of Departments. Wright 
and myself Avere on the Committee from Georgia to report the Constitu 
tion. Each State had two members on it. Memminger, of South Carolina, 
who moved the raising of the Committee, was Chairman. 

"We have just elected the President and Vice-President of the Confed 
eracy. Mr. Davis, of Mississippi, was unanimously chosen President, and 
I was unanimously chosen Vice-President. I knew that such was the un 
derstanding as to what would be the result, and did not go to the hall 
when the election took place. The vote was cast by States. I have a 
good deal to say about this and other matters transacted here when I see 
you. * 

February 10th." To-morrow I am to be inaugurated, or signify my 
acceptance and take the oath of office publicly in the Congress hall at 
twelve o clock. ... I almost shrink from the responsibilities I shall as 
sume. To making any speech on the occasion I have a strong aversion; 
but such is the request in the letter asking my acceptance." 

February lltli. " This, as you know, is my birthday ; and this day at 
the hour of one I was inaugurated (if such be the proper term for the pro 
ceeding) Vice-President of the Confederate States of America. The co- 

, 25 



386 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

incidence, altogether accidental, made a marked impression upon my mind. 
The remarks I made you will of course see. They were delivered as if 
extemporaneous, though they had been written and committed to memory. 
As you will see, they were very short. I wrote them down this morning 
before going to the Capitol. There was, I suspect, great disappointment 
at their brevity. I had been urged to make a speech, and a very large 
crowd was assembled to hear it. I was satisfied that such a course would 
be injudicious, indelicate, and improper. Since it is all over, a great many 
have told me that I did exactly right. I was governed entirely by my own 
judgment and sense of propriety in the matter." 

February 17th. (To Linton.) "The President-elect reached here last 
night at ten o clock. Mr. T combs, Mr. Crawford, and myself called at his 
hotel at ten this morning, but he was not up. ... I get about thirty letters 
daily, but cannot answer above fifteen of them. As to the point in the new 
Constitution you mention, I will state that the provision I wished is in it; 
that is, the exclusion in the old Constitution is omitted. All I wanted is 
thatjthe President should not be forbidden to go into the Houses of Congress 
in the selection. ^ his Cabinet. I think it would be better still to require 
him to do it, but that is not so important. Mr. Toombs backed the policy 
with great force. I had the clause of prohibition left out of the draft sub 
mitted by the Committee. I was on the Committee. Upon motion to in 
sert it, in the House, Mr. Toombs sustained my position. This, however, 
is one of the secrets of our body, which you will so regard: and I would 
not communicate it to you but for the fact that we are permitted to dis 
close any of these secrets to our State Conventions in secret session ; so, as 
you are a member of that Convention, I can state it to you in confidence. 
Mr. Toombs tells me, however, that in the Committee raised to present 
a constitution of permanent government he has been out-voted on this 
point ; that the old clause is retained, and that we shall have a fight over 
it in the Congress when the report is made. He is very friendly with me 
now, and confers freely with me on all matters either before his Committee 
on the Constitution or before Congress, lie now seems to be as cordial as 
he ever did in his life.* He never lets Cobb pass without giving him a 
lick. The other night, in high glee, he told him in company that he had 
done more for secession than any other man. He had deprived the enemy 
of the sinews of war, and left them without a dollar in the treasury. He 
did not even leave old Buck two quarters to put on his eyes when he 
died. This is a sore point with Cobb ; but Toombs seemed disposed to rub 
in the salt. Even when the skin was off, he applied it to the raw." 

February 21st. u I am bored to death with company and calls. . . . 
Sometimes it does seem to me that it will kill me. I cannot get ten 

* After the wide difference between them on the question of secession, 
there had been a temporary suspension of that warm cordiality which had 
ahvavs before existed. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 337 

minutes of solitude during the twenty-four hours. As one leaves another 
calls. . . . When the Cabinet will be announced I do not know. Mr. 
Toombs, I think, will be sent in for the State Department. He declined 
at first. The President telegraphed him asking a reconsideration, and he 
replied last night that he would accept temporarily. He wishes to hold 
his place in the Senate under the Provisional Government. The President 
seems to be entirely confidential in his relations with me." 

February 21st. (To R. M. J.) "I am occupied day and night; never 
did I have such a heavy load of work on my hands. Sometimes I think 
I shall sink under it. If it was not for calls and visitors I could get 
along ; but almost every moment of the day, when I am out of Congress, 
until twelve at night, I have to receive and talk to people calling to see 
me on business. As to public affairs here, I am gratified in feeling able to 
say that they promise better for the future than I expected. I am, how 
ever, still filled with solicitude and anxiety. My every effort is devoted to 
the public weal, and my earnest hopes are that all will yet end well. 
Greater difficulties surround us than I fully realize : perhaps I am more 
apprehensive in relation to their extent and magnitude than I ought to 
be. I know r I am much more so than the majority of those with whom 
I come in contact. Still, I cannot divest myself of deep anxiety, and a 
consideration that we have more troubles ahead than many of our more 
sanguine friends see or realize. There is more conservatism, as it is 
called, in Congress than I expected to see. and this increases my hopes. 

"I was induced to accept the place under the Provisional Government 
assigned to me from no motive in the world but a desire to promote the 
public weal. I thought it would have that effect, and therefore could not 
decline. As far as my individual wishes are concerned, I assure you I 
would not exchange the pleasures of one day at my quiet home for all 
the honors or emoluments of all the offices and powers this world could 
bestow. 

" It will require a great deal of patience, forbearance, and patriotism on 
the part of the people to bear us successfully through the dangers that sur 
round us. All must be content with knowing that we will do the best we 
can under the circumstances : this, I think, is the desire of Congress, and to 
this end their labors will be devoted. And what they do will be sustained 
by a generous patriotism on the part of the people. Many inconveniences 
incident to a change of government will be looked for and borne with 
fortitude by the people. War I look for as almost certain. Every effort 
should be made to avoid it, if possible, consistent with honor and right. 
But we are told by high authority that offences must needs come ; and 
I think this is one of the occasions on which we may expect such a result." 



CHAPTEE XXXV. 

Peace Congress Commissioners appointed to the United States Government 

How Mr. Davis was nominated Character of the Confederate Congress 

The South and the West Hopes and Fears Action of the Federal 
Government Secretary Seward s "Faith" A Declaration of "War 
Speech at Savannah Capture of Fort Sumter Call for Seventy-five 
Thousand Men Secession of Virginia Sent as Commissioner to Kich- 
mond The 19th of April in Baltimore Excitement throughout the 
South Convention "between Virginia and the Confederate States Finan 
cial Policy of Mr. Stephens Death of Mr. Douglas Linton joins the 
Army Mr. Stephens in Eichmond. 



can but briefly indicate the political events that were 
occurring at this critical time. On the 4th of February what 
was called the Peace Congress, for devising some plan for paci 
fication, met at Washington at the call of Virginia. Thirteen 
Northern and seven Southern States were represented in it. 
The attitude of the Northern delegates was one of defiance; and 
their most distinguished man, Salmon P. Chase, afterwards 
Chief Justice of the United States, declared emphatically that 
the North and West would never fulfil their constitutional 
obligations or regard the decisions of the Supreme Court upon 
the question of slavery ; that they would never allow the South 
a share in the common territory, nor return fugitive slaves. 
That they considered that those "principles," as he called them, 
had triumphed in the election of Mr. Lincoln, and would be 
maintained at all hazards. With such an attitude on the part 
of the North, of course any reconciliation was impossible, and 
the Peace Congress accomplished nothing except giving the 
South clearly to understand that fact. 

On the 15th of February the Confederate Congress passed 
a resolution instructing the President to appoint, after his in 
auguration, three Commissioners to be sent to the United States 
Government "for the purpose of negotiating friendly relations" 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 389 

"and for the settlement of all questions of disagreement." The 
President-elect had not yet reached Montgomery, but after his 
inauguration, in compliance with the resolution, appointed 
Mr. John Forsyth, of Alabama, Mr. Martin J. Crawford, of 
Georgia, and Mr. A. B. Roman, of Louisiana, all three able 
and patriotic men. 

February 23d. (To Linton.) " I concur with you as to Mr. Toombs s 
superior qualifications for the Presidency to those of any other man con 
nected with the late secession movement, and I have but little doubt that 
he would have been elected but for one thing, which I will explain hereafter. 

" I went to see the President this morning on his invitation through 
Mr. Secretary Memminger. He wanted me to head the Commission to 
Washington. I declined, because I did not think I could do any good. 
I have no idea that Mr. Buchanan will recognize our Government or enter 
into any treaty with us. He may entertain the question so far as to 
receive the Commissioners officially, and then turn them over to his suc 
cessor. This even is doubtful. That, it is true, would be a great point 
gained. But still the Commission, I think, will end without success. At 
least I see no other prospect, so far as any efforts I could exert. Under 
these feelings I declined, and urged upon him the appointment of one 
man from each of the late great divisions of the Southern people : one 
Bell man, one Douglas man, and one Breckenridge man. As the Bell 
man, Judge Ililliard, of this State ; as the Douglas man, II. V. Johnson, 
of Georgia ; the Breckenridge man, Benjamin, of Louisiana, who is to be 
the Attorney-General. Whom he will appoint I do not know, but think 
he will take Governor Roman, of Louisiana, for the Bell man. Yancey and 
Slidell will be on the mission to go abroad. Who the other will be, if 
there is a third, I do not know. This is not agreed upon. Mallory, of 
Florida, will be the Secretary of the Navy, and Elliot, of Mississippi, 
Postmaster-General. The Florida people are very much opposed to Mal 
lory, but I think he Avill be presented." 

The explanation promised Linton in this letter was afterwards 
given by Mr. Stephens in conversation with R. M. J. (May 
24th, 1862), and noted at the time: 

MR. S. " What I know about Mr. Davis s nomination for President 
can be told in few words. Toombs and I, as we got upon the cars at 
Crawfordville, on our way to Montgomery, met Mr. Chestnut. The latter 
said that the South Carolina delegation had talked the matter over, and 
looked to Georgia for the President. I remarked that either Mr. Toombs, 
Mr. Cobb, Governor Jenkins, or Governor Johnson would suit very well. 
He answered that they were not looking to any of the others, but to Mr. 
Toombs and myself. I told them, very frankly, that I did not wish the 



390 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

office ; that as I had not been in the movement, I did not think it policy 
to put me in for it. After getting to Montgomery, Mr. Keitt told me that 
I was the preference of the South Carolina delegation, and asked if I 
would serve if elected. I told him that I would not say in advance 
whether I would or would not accept. Even if unanimously chosen, I 
would first consider whether or not I could organize a Cabinet with such 
concert of ideas and ability as to justify hopes of success on such line of 
policy as I should pursue. 

" The night after the adoption of the permanent Constitution, the motion 
was made to go into the election of chief officers. It was then suggested 
that the election should take place the next day at twelve M., and in the 
mean time the delegations should consult separately. The Georgia dele 
gation met at ten o clock on the morning of the day of the election. I 
proposed that we put in the name of Mr. Toombs for the Presidency, and 
asked him if he would have it. He said he would accept it if it was 
cordially offered him. Mr. T. Cobb and F. T. Bartow* said that the dele 
gations of Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, and Louisiana had conferred, 
and agreed to support Mr. Davis. Mr. Toombs seemed very incredulous 
of this, and his manner indicated some surprise. I did not understand 
this then, but did afterwards. The statement was reiterated ; and upon 
it the delegation forbore to nominate Mr. Toombs, but determined to 
appoint a committee to ascertain if the report was true. Mr. Kenan then 
proposed that if it should be correct I should be put forward for Vice- 
President. Judge Nisbet said, I second that, heartily ! Mr. Toombs 
said, I do, too ; what do you say, Aleck? I replied that I had not been 
in the movement, and doubted the policy of my assuming any office. But 
still there might be reasons why I should : as for the sake of harmony 5 
that if I were to have any, I decidedly preferred the Vice-Presidency to 
any office in the Government, but would not accept it unless it should be 
tendered me unanimously by the States and by every delegate. Mr. 
Crawford was then appointed a committee of one to ascertain and report 
to us, first, whether the report as to the action of those States was true ; 
and, second, if my nomination would be acceptable to the entire body. 
Very soon he returned and announced that both the conditions were ful 
filled. I afterwards learned that the action of the States alluded to was 
based upon intelligence received by them the night before that Mr. Cobb 
would be presented by the Georgia delegation, and that Mr. Davis was 
not their choice. Toombs was the choice of the Florida, the Louisiana, 
and the South Carolina delegations." 

J. "Did not Mississippi desire Mr. Davis?" 

S. " They did not. They wished him to be the commander-in-chief 
of the army. That was what he wished also. He did not desire to be 
President." 

J. " For whom was Alabama?" 

* Afterwards General Bartow, killed at the first battle of Manassas. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 39 1 

S. " For Mr. Toombs, I think. It was in consequence of the under 
standing I spoke of that I did not go to the hall when the election took 
place." 

~-- February 25th. (To Linton.) " The President has sent in nominations 
for the Commission to Washington [names given as in letter of 23d] and 
they have been confirmed. I do not think Crawford will accept the appoint 
ment tendered him. He knew not one thing about it until Mr. Toombs told 
him about an hour before his name was sent in. lie does not wish it. 
He was very anxious that Johnson should be appointed, and is exceedingly 
embarrassed in his present position." 

Februanj 26th. " I am now in hopes we shall get through with the 
permanent Constitution by an early day in next week. I intend to go 
home then. Crawford is in a great strait. He will, I suppose, now not 
decline, but is greatly embarrassed by it. I am getting home-sick. I fear 
that the appointing power will not act with sufficient discretion and wis 
dom. I was very anxious that II. V. Johnson should be appointed to Wash 
ington. He would have been a good and judicious appointment. Crawford 
fully agrees with me on this point." 

February 27th. " The debates in this body are becoming a great bore 
to me.jpnly occasionally a member speaks whom I have any patience 
with.^I fear,,we shall not get through with the permanent Constitution 
in timeiorthe Georgia Convention next wee^H-^ 

February 2Sth. " In public business we are getting on slowly but har 
moniously. I may be mistaken, but I think we have great troubles 
ahead, not with this body but with the people. I have a great deal to 
say to you when I see you, but I cannot write. I am anxious to see you. 
I want to get home badly. . . . Crawford started for Washington last 
night. My advice controlled him in accepting the appointment." 

March 1st. " The reason I have said so little on public affairs .is twofold : 
first, the great uncertainty of anything I might say getting safely to you ; 
and, secondly, the great uncertainty of my mind upon the course of events. 
All I can say would be speculative. I have thought, and still think, we 
shall have war. Still we may not, and I earnestly hope not. In all my 
letters to friends who have written to me for my views on particular ques 
tions I have concluded with these general ideas, that great forbearance and 
patience must be exercised by the people in sustaining those necessary 
inconveniences and burdens incident to a change of government, the 
derangements of the mails, the derangements of commerce, the increase 
of taxes, these and a thousand other things not thought of must be borne 
with nerve and patriotism. If the public or bodvpolitic cannot stand 
this shock, I don t know what will become of us. v^eare getting along I 
harmoniously here, but still I see great troubles ahead tliat nobody I meet I 
with seems to be in the least aware"o?T)Thia annoys me. We lack states 
manship of what I consider the hrrrfre st order. We have but little, if any, 
of real forecast. This renders me uneasy." 



392 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

March 3d. " Yesterday the President sent me a telegraphic despatch 
he had just received from two gentlemen in Little Rock, Arkansas, urging 
me to go to their State Convention. If I would go all would be right. 
So I went down to see him about it ; told him it was out of the question 
for me to go. I could not undertake the travel if there were no other 
reason ; but that I was confident I could do no good if I were there. I 
advised him to send Tom Cobb. He might be able to effect something. 
He immediately rang for a servant and sent for Cobb. Cobb came, and 
the President stated the object of his call. Cobb said he would reflect 
about it and give him an answer after the adjournment of Congress at the 
close of the night session. This interview was at six P.M. We were to 
have a night session at half-past seven. I did not attend it in consequence 
of my neuralgia, but Toombs reported to me this morning that Cobb 
declined to go." 

March 3d. After some sketches of the personnel of Congress, 
he remarks : 

,*- - 
Upon the whole, this Congress, taken all in all, is the ablest, soberest. 

>st intelligent, and conservative body I was ever inT> . . Nobody look 
ing on would ever take this Congress for a set of revolutionists." 

March 5th. "We have run against a snag, that is, a disturbing ques 
tion in the formation of the fundamental law, not yet decided, cannot say 
how it will be decided. Some feeling has been thrown into the debate, 
and some temper exhibited. . . . The general opinion here is that war is 
almost certain. This has been my opinion all the time. I see great 
troubles ahead." 

March 8th. " The. most exciting of all the questions we have had was 
decided to-day. If we have no motion to-morrow to reconsider, I shall be 
his was the clause relating to the admission of other States." 




Mr. Stephens desired the Constitution to be so framed as to 
idm.it nqn-slaveholding States if any should incline to enter the 
Confederacy, as he thought might be the case with some of the 
States of the West. To this point he attached great importance, 
and often dwelt on it with great earnestness in conversation with 
his friends. He considered it a narrow and most erroneous 
policy not to leave a way open for the admission of other States, 
whether slaveholding or not. Indeed, one ground of his oppo 
sition to secession in the previous year was that he foresaw that 
such a policy would be insisted on by the men who would be 
the leaders in the new organization. " We should be known as 
The Black Republic/ " he would urge, " and as such should 
be without sympathy from any of the world outside." 



LIFE .OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 393 

After the secession had been accomplished, lie was very 
anxious for the new Government to adopt such a policy as 
might induce the Western States, whose material interests were 
so closely allied with those of the South, eventually to join 
it. For, to use a phrase which we shall find him using here^ j 
after, he soon came to the conclusion that unless the South 
could conciliate and control the West by reason and ideas, the j 
West and Middle States would govern the South by force. .. 

March 10th. " This is Sunday night. We got through the permanent 
Constitution last night. I do not like all its provisions. . . . The only hard 
contests were in keeping it from being greatly worse than it is. I was in 
an agony all day yesterday for fear that some serious mischief might be 
done. A divided State only saved us several times upon points almost 
vital. SLeren still dread to-morrow, tor fear that some new motion may 
be brought forward, though we have ordered it to be engrossed; There 
are some yery bad passions and purposes beginning to develop themselves 
here. I am constantly suspended between hope and fear for the future. 
I have not yet any settled conviction or confidence on which I can rely. I 
am anxious to see you, when I can confer freely with you upon all these 
questions. 

March 13th. (To R. M. J.) u As to public affairs, I can only say that 
in my judgment our destiny, under Providence, is in our own hands. 
What our course shall be will depend upon our people. We are in the 
position of a young man of talent and ability setting out in life. As such 
a one, we shall be the architects of our own fortunes. With truth, fidelity, 
integrity, and industry a young man of parts in this world, under the 
smiles of Heaven, will seldom fail to succeed ; and with virtue, patience, 
and patriotism on the part of our people, I doubt not the success, the 
complete success, of this our new enterprise. But should dissensions, 
strifes, and factions spring up among us, all will go to ruin. This is the 
riddle of our present position. We have all the elements of a great empire. 
All that is necessary for us to become so is the intelligence, virtue, and 
patriotism to wield them to that high end. I am not without hope that our 
people will prove themselves equal to the demand of the times." 

The Confederate Commissioners, on the 12th of March, ad 
dressed a note to the new Secretary of State, Mr. Seward, 
informing him that they were commissioned by the Govern 
ment of the Confederate States to make overtures for opening 
negotiations with that of the United States, with the object of a 
just and amicable settlement of the various questions relating to 
the common property, public debt, etc. Mr. Seward took no 



394 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

official notice of this action, but sent a verbal message through 
Justice John A. Campbell, of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, to the effect that he was well-disposed toward peace, 
though an official answer to the Commissioners, in his opinion, 
would do harm rather than good. As to the Federal forts, he 
promised that Fort Sumter (South Carolina) would be evacuated 
by the United States forces in less than ten days , and that noti 
fication would be given of any design to alter the status of 
affairs at Fort Pickens (Florida). 

Relying on the Secretary s faith, the Commissioners refrained 
to press for a direct official reply to their note until they heard 
that a squadron of seven ships had put to sea, under sealed 
orders, from New York and Norfolk. Fearing that this was 
intended to reinforce Fort Sumter, the Commissioners waited 
upon Judge Campbell to learn the facts of the case, and the 
judge addressed a note to Mr. Seward, asking if the assurances 
he had given in the latter s name were to be kept or violated. 
To this inquiry on the 7th of April, at the time when the 
fleet conveying reinforcements and provisions to Sumter was 
nearing Charleston harbor Mr. Secretary Seward replied to 
Judge Campbell, "Faith as to Sumter fully kept: wait and 
see/ 7 So soon as the Commissioners learned what had been 
done, on the 9th of April, they notified Mr. Seward that they 
considered the action of the United States Government, under 
the circumstances, "a declaration of war," and they withdrew 
from Washington. Judge Campbell, who had been made an 
involuntary instrument in this act of perfidy, soon after resigned 
his seat on the Supreme Bench. 

On the 21st of March, Mr. Stephens, by request, addressed 
the citizens of Savannah on the state of public affairs. The 
Athena3iim building was crowded to its utmost capacity, and a 
large assemblage collected outside the building, and remained 
though unable to obtain admittance. This address, from an ex 
pression which occurs in it, and which was grossly misrepre 
sented, was known as the " Corner-stone speech. It was delivered 
impromptu, and very imperfectly reported. 

After calling attention to the fact that the Constitution of the 
Confederate States embodied all the essentials of the old Consti- 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER If. STEPHENS. 395 

tution, he proceeds to enumerate the changes which had been 
introduced into the new instrument, which made it, in his judg 
ment, decidedly better than the old. 

" Allow me briefly to allude to some of these improvements. The ques 
tion of building up class interests, or fostering one branch of industry to 
the prejudice of another under the exercise of the revenue power, which 
gave us so much trouble under the old Constitution, is put at rest forever 
under the new. We allow the imposition of no duty with a view of giv 
ing advantage to one class of persons, in any trade or business, over those 
of another. All, under our system, stand upon the same broad principles 
of perfect equality. Honest labor and enterprise are left free and unre 
stricted in whatever pursuit they may be engaged. This subject came 
well-nigh causing a rupture of the old Union, under the lead of the gallant 
Palmetto State, which lies on our border, in 1833. This old thorn of the 
tariff, which was the cause of so much irritation in the old body politic, is 
removed forever from the new. : 

After showing how the abuses which, under the pretence of 
" Internal Improvements/ had been perpetrated under a wrested 
construction of the old Constitution, were done away with in the 
new, by leaving every locality to bear the burdens necessary for 
its own commerce or industry, he continues : 

"Another feature to which I will allude is, that the new Constitution 
provides that Cabinet Ministers and heads of Departments may have the 
privilege of seats upon the floor of the Senate and House of Representa 
tives, may have the right to participate in the debates and discussions 
upon the various subjects of administration. I should have preferred that 
this provision should have gone further and required the President to 
select his constitutional advisers from the Senate arid House of Repre 
sentatives. That would have conformed entirely to the practice in the 
British Parliament, which, in my judgment, is one of the wisest provisions 
in the British constitution. It is the only feature that saves that gov 
ernment. It is that which gives it stability in its facility to change its 
administration. Ours, as it is, is a great approximation to the right 
principle. 

" Under the old Constitution, a Secretary of the Treasury, for instance, 
had no opportunity, save by his annual reports, of presenting any scheme 
or plan of finance or other matter. He had no opportunity of explaining, 
expounding, enforcing, or defending his views of policy: his only resort 
was through the medium of an organ. In the British Parliament, the 
Premier brings in his budget and stands before the nation responsible for 
its every item. If it is indefensible, he falls before the attacks upon it, 
as he ought to. This will now be the case, to a limited extent, under our 



396 LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 

system. In the new Constitution provision has been made by which our 
heads of Departments can speak for themselves and the Administration in 
behalf of its entire policy, without resorting to the indirect and highly ob 
jectionable medium of a newspaper. It is to be greatly hoped that under 
our system we shall never have what is known as a government organ. 

" Another change in the Constitution relates to the length of the tenure 
of the Presidential office. In the new Constitution it is six years instead 
of four, and the President is rendered ineligible for re-election. This is 
certainly a decidedly conservative change. It will remove from the in 
cumbent the temptation to use his office or exert the powers confided to 
him for any objects of personal ambition. The only incentive to that 
higher ambition which should move and actuate one holding such high 
trusts in his hands will be the good of the people, the advancement, 
prosperity, safety, honor, and true glory of the Confederacy." 

What lie said on the subject of the " corner-stone" was sub 
stantially this : 

" On the subject of slavery there was no essential change in the new 
Constitution from the old. As Judge Baldwin, of the Supreme Court of 
the United States, had announced from the Bench several years before, 
that slavery was the corner-stone of the old Constitution, so it is of the 



On the llth of April, General Beauregard, commanding the 
Confederate forces in Charleston, demanded the evacuation of 
Fort Sumter. On the next day he opened fire upon the fort, 
and the conynander capitulated on the 13th. On the 15th, Mr. 
Lincoln issued his proclamation calling for seventy-five thousand 
troops; and on the 17th, Virginia, whose Convention was still 
in session, withdrew from the Union. 

April 17th. " There is no truth whatever in the telegraphic despatches 
that the President intends to head an expedition to Washington, and to 
leave me at the head of the Government here. lie has no idea at present 
to take command of the army. The matters he wished to consult me 
about [Mr. Stephens had paid a short visit to Linton during the adjourn 
ment, and had returned to Montgomery in response to a telegram from 
the President] were the subjects of receiving volunteers from the Border 
States, the issuing of letters of marque, and other matters relating to the 
state of the country. A proclamation will be forthcoming to-morrow, I 
expect, inviting privateering. The proposals will be received and held 
ready for the action of Congress when that body meets. The proclamation 
will be put forth to let the Northern merchants know what they may 
expect, and to have privateers ready. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 397 

" It is expected here that Virginia will secede, and all the Border States 
will follow her ; and then, I think, the whole North will consolidate. This 
will keep the Republicans in power. This is perhaps what they are mainly 
aiming at. But events happen so rapidly now that it is useless to specu 
late two days ahead." 

April 18th. " The news came that Virginia was out. Great rejoicing 
firing cannon, etc. The day is brilliant. The news this morning is that 
General Scott has resigned. This is important, if true." 

April 10th. " In a few hours I am to start for Richmond. I shall, if 
nothing Providential prevents, pass by home to-morrow evening, and shall 
mail this on the road. I go to Virginia as a representative of this Gov 
ernment in forming a treaty of alliance offensive and defensive between 
this Government and that State. She, of course, will soon be a member 
of this Confederacy. But Governor Letcher has telegraphed for a Com 
mission to be sent on forthwith, that the two Governments may act in 
concert in the impending dangers. They want help, expecting a hard 
fight soon. They are about, I take it, to seize Harper s Ferry and the 
Navy Yard at Portsmouth. Perhaps they are looking for an attack from 
Washington. 

" I was strongly inclined not to accept the position, owing to my health 
and the apprehension that night travel might make me sick ; but upon the 
urgent request of the President and all his Cabinet I have consented to go. 
The subject admits of no delay : Letcher telegraphed for immediate action." 

April 19th. (To R. M. J.) After expressing his deep sorrow 
at hearing of the death of Mrs. Church, wife of Dr. Church, 
President of the college, in whose family he had resided during 
his collegiate studies, he continues : 

"Events of the greatest magnitude are now almost hourly developing. 
When the war that has now commenced will end no human power can 
divine. The issues are with Him who rules the universe, in whose hands 
are the destinies of nations. . . . The idea of Mr. Lincoln to urge a gen 
eral war of subjugation against us seems to me to be too preposterous for 
a sensible man to entertain. But what his real designs are I suppose it 
would be difficult to imagine. The worst feature about it in prospect is the 
possibility that he has no real design on the subject, that he has no settled 
policy, that he is, like the fool, scattering fire without any definite purpose." 

On the 18th of April the first Federal troops passed through 
Baltimore, and much excitement was created, though their pass 
age was not opposed. On the 19th, a Massachusetts regiment, 
on its way through the city, was pelted with stones by a mob, 
and fired upon the people. They were then fiercely attacked, 
and several were killed on both sides, being the first blood shed 



398 LJFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

in the war. The greatest excitement prevailed : telegraph wires 
were cut, and the bridges destroyed on the roads leading to the 
North, to prevent the further passage of troops. The mayor 
of Baltimore sent three prominent citizens to wait upon Presi 
dent Lincoln and represent that any further attempt to pass 
Northern troops through the city would lead to a bloody con 
flict ; upon which the President promised that no more should 
be sent through. They were afterwards sent by the way of 
Annapolis, but considerable delay was thus occasioned. 

On the same day (19th) a blockade of the ports of the seven 
Confederate States was declared, and on the 27th this blockade 
was extended to those of Virginia and North Carolina. On 
this day also (27th) President Lincoln authorized the suspension 
of the writ of habeas corpus near the military lines, and on the 
10th of May authorized its suspension in Florida, all which acts 
were confirmed by the Federal Congress early in July. 

April 22d, Richmond. "I arrived this morning at six o clock; came 
through without stopping or any detention. All is excitement here. War 
like preparations are seen at every corner and along every street. . . . The 
Governor of Maryland* is with us. They are making strong resistance 
to the inarch of Federal troops through that State. Ten or fifteen thousand 
troops are detained on the other side of Baltimore. They are for Wash 
ington. A desperate and sanguinary conflict is at hand there. Maryland 
will be the battle-ground at first, this I think probable. General Scott 
has not resigned and will not, from best advices. We are on the eve of a 
tremendous conflict between the sections. Sentiment is rapidly consoli 
dating on both sides of the line. North Carolina is in a blaze from one 
extremity to the other.. Yesterday, Sunday as it was, large crowds were 
assembled at all the stations along the railroad, at Wilmington five thou 
sand at least, the Confederate flag flying all over the city. I had to make 
them a speech at all the places, only a few words at some, and longer at 
others ; at Wilmington nearly half an hour. I alluded to the Sabbath, 
and made the remarks as appropriate as possible. They were more like 
a sermon than a political speech. 

" To-morrow, at one o clock, I am to meet the State Convention here in 
closed-doors session. The mails north are all stopped, and there is no 
travelling even to Alexandria without special passport. Our people in 

* Governor Hicks, who, after asseverating publicly, in the most solemn 
manner, that he would never draw the sword of Maryland against a sister 
State, became one of the most pliant instruments in the hands of the Gov 
ernment at Washington. 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 399 

Georgia have no idea of the feelings entertained here of the dangers of 
impending war hanging on their immediate borders. All the cities and 
towns of Virginia are under guard day and night ; and all persons not 
able to give an account of themselves taken up. There is a strong incli 
nation on the part of some here to make an attack upon Washington. 
What course and policy will be adopted is not yet determined upon. . . . 

" The people are in apprehension this city will be attacked by the forces 
now in the Chesapeake and Potomac below. There are no forts on the 
James River to prevent armed ships from coming up. The Pawnee, Cum 
berland, and others, with a large force of soldiers at Old Point, are below. 
I must now close for the mail. May God bless you and save our land from 
bloodshed !" 

April 25th. u The work of my mission is in suspense before the Con 
vention, been so hung up since yesterday. I am anxious as to its fate. 
The Virginians will debate and speak, though war be at the gates of their 
city. I shall be highly gratified if the convention I have entered into with 
the Committee of the Convention shall be ratified by that body. If it be 
rejected, I hardly know what course to pursue. 

"This city is all excitement. Fifteen thousand troops are nowhere. 
All Virginia is in arms. Unless things have greatly changed in Georgia 
since I left, you can have no idea of the state of things here. Yet the 
Convention acts slowly: they are greatly behind the times. The first 
night I got here I made a speech in response to a serenade. The next day 
I addressed the Convention in secret session. All that I have said here, I 
am told, has been well received by all parties. 

" My health holds up tolerably well ; though I was very much relaxed 
and rather feeble the first two days. I am now stronger and better. Though 
I cannot be with you in person, my thoughts are with you." 

The Ordinance adopting the Convention entered into between 
Virginia and the Confederate States, and the text of the Con 
vention itself, ran as follows: 

" An Ordinance for the Adoption of the Constitution of the Provisional 
Government of the Confederate States of America. 

"WE, the delegates of the People of Virginia, in Convention assembled, 
solemnly impressed by the perils which surround the Commonwealth, and 
appealing to the Searcher of Hearts for the rectitude of our intentions in 
assuming the grave responsibility of this act, do, by this Ordinance, ADOPT 
AND RATIFY the Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Con 
federate States of America, ordained and established at Montgomery, Ala 
bama, on the 8th of February, 1861 ; provided that this Ordinance shall cease 
to have any legal operation or effect if the People of this Commonwealth, 
upon the vote directed to be taken on the Ordinance of Secession passed by 
this Convention on the 17th day of April, 1861, shall reject the same. 

"A true copy. JOHN L. EUBANK, Secretary: 



400 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 

11 CONVE.VTION BETWEEN THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA AND THE CON 
FEDERATE STATES OF AMERICA. 

" THE COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, looking to a speedy union of said 
Commonwealth and the other slave States with the Confederate States of 
America, according to the provisions of the Constitution for the Provisional 
Government of said States, enters into the following temporary Convention 
and Agreement with said States, for the purpose of meeting pressing 
exigencies affecting the common rights, interests, and safety of said Com 
monwealth and said Confederacy : 

" 1st. Until the union of said Commonwealth with said Confederacy 
shall be perfected, and said Commonwealth shall become a member of said 
Confederacy, according to the Constitutions of both Powers, the whole 
military force and military operations, offensive and defensive, of said 
Commonwealth, in the impending conflict with the United States, shall be 
under the chief control and direction of the President of said Confederate 
States, upon the same principles, basis, and footing as if said Common 
wealth were now and during the interval a member of said Confederacy. 

" 2d. The Commonwealth of Virginia will, after the consummation of tho 
union contemplated in this Convention, and her adoption of the Constitution 
for a Permanent Government of the said Confederate States, and she shall 
become a member of said Confederacy under said permanent Constitution, 
if the same occur, turn over to the said Confederate States all the public pro 
perty, naval stores, and munitions of war, etc., she may then be in possession 
of, acquired from the United States, on the same terms and in like manner 
as the other States of said Confederacy have done in like cases. 

"3d. "Whatever expenditures of money, if any. said Commonwealth of 
Virginia shall make before the union under the Provisional Government 
as above contemplated shall be consummated, shall be met and provided 
for by said Confederate States. 

" THIS CONVENTION entered into and agreed to, in the City of Richmond, 
Virginia, on the 24th day of April, 1861, by Alexander II Stephens, the 
duly authorized Commissioner to act in the matter for the said Confederate 
States, and John Tyler, William Ballard Preston, Samuel McD. Moore, 
James P. Ilolcombe, James C. Bruce, and Lewis E. Harvie, parties duly 
authorized to act in like manner for the said Commonwealth of Virginia, 
the whole subject to the approval and ratification of the proper authori 
ties of both Governments respectively. 

" IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, the parties aforesaid have hereto set their hands 
and seals, the day and year aforesaid, and at the place aforesaid, in duplicate 
originals. "ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS, [SEAL.] 

" Commissioner for Confederate States. 



[SEAL.] 
Commissioners | r SEAL ] 



" JOHN TYLER, 
"WM. B. PRESTON, 
"S. McD. MOORE, 

"JAS. P. IIOLCOMBE, 

"JAS. C. BRUCE, 

" LEWIS E. HARVIE, J (^ [SEAL.] 



for 



[SEAL.] 



[SEAL.] 
Virginia. I [SEAL.] 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS. 4Q1 

" Approved and ratified by the Convention of Virginia on the 25th of 
April, 1861. 

"JOHN L. EUBANK, Secretary. JOHN JANNEY, President."* 

Orawfordvitte, April 29th. Mr. Stephens had just returned 
from Richmond, and spent a day at home. He writes to Lin- 
ton, giving an account of the raising a volunteer company in 
Taliaferro, and thus continues : 

" What is to be the end of this impending conflict, or when the end will 
be, is beyond my conjecture. Never was the country so thoroughly roused, 
from the Rio Grande to the Canada line. The feeling at the North is just 
as intense, from all I can learn, as it is at the South. If one general bat 
tle ensue, it will take many men to end the strife. All things are in the 
hands of an overruling Providence, and He will shape events according to 
the counsels of His own will. The race is not to the strong nor the swift. 
Let us trust in Him, and that in His mercy the country may be saved from 
the terrible curse of a general fratricidal war. ... I feel anxious to see 
the message of President Davis delivered to-day. I trust he will recom 
mend defensive measures only, not aggressive or offensive. If we act on 
the defensive strictly, we may yet avoid a general war. This should be 
done, if it can be, honorably." 

Montgomery. Several letters follow, urging Linton to come 
to this city. He has been staying at home, preparing to raise a 
volunteer company. 

May 4th. " I think we shall move the Government in summer, perhaps 
to Richmond. That will be nearer the theatre of war. I am prepared 
for. and expect, a prolonged and bloody conflict. It may not be so. I 
hope it may not. But I have never believed that a separation of the States 
of the old Confederation would take place without a severe conflict of arms. 
How long it will last none can tell. Our Congress will have recognized 
the existing war, and made all arrangements and preparations possible to 
meet it by the time this reaches you, I expect. It will require great sac 
rifice on the part of the people to secure the success of our cause ; but I 
feel entirely assured their patriotism is fully equal to the crisis." 

May 5th. "We have no news here; all in Congress goes on smoothly. 
But very little is doing except preparing for war on an extensive scale. It 
will take not less than forty millions per annum, I think, to maintain our 
cause while the conflict lasts. This, of course, to some extent, is conjec 
ture. May God be with you and bless you! Don t fail to rely on Him 
and put your trust in Him. 

* Further particulars concerning this Convention are given in The War 
between the States, vol. ii. p. 378. 

26 



402 LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS, 

May 7th. He writes recurring to the fact that it is the anni 
versary of his father s death. 

May 13th. " We shall adjourn on the 18th, or perhaps on the 23d at 
farthest, to meet in Richmond in July. This has not been made public, 
and you will therefore keep it secret. I am glad you have determined to 
go into the volunteer service for the war. That bill for the war is a good 
one : we shall get a large force under it, but will not get all we shall need 
to meet the requirements, arid have passed another bill to authorize the 
President to receive for any time he may think proper. Both bills will 
accommodate all and bring a very effective force into the field. Do not 
let the military ardor of our people be lessened. ... I am very unwell 
to-day." 

May 14th. "Another memorable anniversary of an epoch of great 
grief and affliction to me. This day of May, 1826, your in-other died, and 
with her death the fate of our little family was sealed. Father died on 
the 7th and she died on the 14th. . . . My grief was great on the death 
of my father, almost greater than I could bear ; but the cup of affliction 
did not run over until ma, as we called her, was also taken from us. 
Then I felt that we should have to be dispersed ; and we were dispersed. 
Who can tell what I suffered at that period of my life ! The anniversary 
always fills me with sadness." 

Mai/ 14th. (To R. M. J.) " I have been, and am still, overwhelmed with 
public affairs. We are in the midst of a war of the hugest magnitude. 
in every issue and consequence nothing short of political, and, it may be, 
of physical existence. What is to be the end is beyond the reach of 
human speculation. . . . The destiny of nations is in the hands of Him who 
directs all things according to the counsels of His own will. When I say 
rtKatno one can tell what is to be the end of the conflict, I do not intend 
? to be understood as expressing any apprehensions as to the success of our 
| arms, far from that. We cannot, I think, be conquered or subjugated 
I under proper counsels. But when is the conflict to end, and what is to 
come after it? These are to me perplexing questions. I have but little 
doubt that the North will go into anarchy. What is to become of us? 
That depends upon the virtue, intelligence, and patriotism of our people. 
These noblest of all public traits (if I may so express myself in desig 
nating the character of bodies political) will, with us, soon be put to the 
severest test. I will not permit myself to doubt that the people of the 
South will prove equal to the crisis. I do not concur with those who 

. think we shall have a short war. I wish I could. ... I do not see any 

prospect of immediate peace, nor can I see how it will ever be attained, 
I mean fixed and permanent peace between the sections. We may have 
suspension of hostilities, truces, temporary stipulations, etc. But how 
or on what principles a treaty of permanent peace is ever to be effected, 
I cannot now see. For instance, will the Confederate States ever make a 



LIFE OF ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS. 1Q3 

treaty that will not provide for and secure the rendition of fugitive slaves ? I 
Certainly not. Will any Administration of the United States ever agree! 
to such a treaty? or if it should, will the people of those States ever sus-J 
tain such an Administration, unless utterly exhausted by war? 

" Congress will probably adjourn in a few days. The next session will 
most probably meet in Richmond, Virginia. The President, it is expected, 
will take command in person of our forces now in the field on the border. 
He will doubtless convene Congress at some place convenient for him to 
communicate with at his headquarters. 

" One of the great pressures now upon us is the want of money. We 
have plenty just now; but our expenditures are upon a basis of not less, 
I suppose, than forty millions per annum. How are we to get the money ? 
Loans, treasury-notes, and direct taxes are our only expedients. Taxes to 
meet interest on bonds and treasury-note