Guide to the Guide to the Alexander Stephens Letter, RG 44
Listed by: Dieter C. Ullrich
Date: June 2003
Historical or Biographical Sketch:
Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born in Crawfordville, Georgia, on February 11th, 1812. After graduating from the University of Georgia he taught in a local school. He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1834. Stephens joined the Whig Party and in 1836 he was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives. He served for five years before being elected to the 28th Congress and took his seat in October, 1843. He later joined the Democratic Party and was chairman of the Committee on Territories (1848-50). An advocate of slavery, Stephens campaigned for the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He opposed the election of Abraham Lincoln but argued against immediate secession after the Republican Party victory. On February 8th, 1861, the Confederacy adopted a constitution and within ten days had elected Jefferson Davis as its president and Stephens as vice-president. After the Civil War Stephens was imprisoned in Fort Warren, in Boston, for five months but was eventually pardoned by President Andrew Johnson. After the war, Stephens was elected to the 43rd Congress and served from December, 1873 until his resignation in November, 1882. He was elected as governor of Georgia in 1882 and served until his death in Atlanta, Georgia, on March 4th, 1883.
Scope and Content:
Consists of a photocopied letter from Alexander Stephens to Dr. David A. Reese, of Monticello, Georgia, inquiring about the prospects of Whig presidential candidate Zachary Taylor in Jasper County, Georgia on July 19th. 1848.
Transcript of letter:
Please write to me and let me know the prospect in political matters in Jasper -- How does the nomination of Taylor, take and what will be his vote in your county. May we count upon any gains? Do the Democrats pretend to defend the position of (Gov.) Cass in his Nicholson letter upon Slavery? They have abandoned him on that point here. No Southern Democrat has ventured since the position was attacked to avow his adhesion to it. I assailed the position in a letter to the Recorder, soon after, the publication of the Nicholson letter which you may have noticed. The communication did suffer under my name but under correspondence from Washington. And I have showed that his position was worse for us than the Wilmot Proviso. It was letting go the hold we had taken on the Proviso only to net a stronger one - against us - And I believe this is now generally conceded by Southern men. For how many man can pretend that the South as any rights -- to unequal participation in enjoyment of the common territory of the Union which has been acquired with the common blood & treasure of all and yet admit that the right can be defeated by the inhabitants -- the mixed Mexico sale of those counties I cannot conceive! How can we be said to have a right depending upon the will, caprice or whim of such a people! And yet this is the right which Mr. Cass & his advocates give it us! It is no right at all. And it is a preposterous and absurd yea it is? It is a downright insult to speak of such a right depending upon such a teneen -- But I did not commence writing with a view of giving you a dissertation and hope you will excuse the effusion and attribute to my great zeal in the cause of Taylor - the South, and good Government generally. I want to hear from Jasper. The news from Cherokee is cheering in the highest degree. Akin the elector there wrote me the other day that we should carry the state by 10,000 majority. Crawford from Augusta also says that everything looks well - I hope the people in the interior are up and wide awake. It can not be that Georgia will ever vote for such an old political hacker as Cass. Such a changling - and a man so utterly unstable and untrustworthy upon questions of vital importance [?] - I am surprised at the Democrats in Georgia [backing] off upon the Slave question. It was their weakest point - As I have no doubt they now feel. Yet if we of the South can not trust Taylor a cotton & sugar planter with two hundred negroes but must look out for -- a safekeeper of our interests in a man up in Michigan who boasted that he never owned a slave and who never had any feelings of interests or sympathy in common with us I [think] that it is time for us to give up! -- the supposition is outrageous -- and does great injustice to our people - I feel assured that I know the people of Georgia better than to suppose them guilty of such a folly. The news from all parts is good. We shall carry New York, Indiana, and Virginia. Don't be Astonished -- I tell you the "Old Dominion" will be [with us] this time in my opinion -- Ohio is doubtful is Penna. But Taylor's election is almost certain - of course I count Georgia certain. The old party hawks will make a desperate effort - it will be a life and death struggle with them -- but our people have no interests in their schemes and they will go for Taylor - victory I feel is in our reach - it will [require] an effort but with effort, [constant] effort, energy & zeal we shall certainly obtain it. Let our people be awakened, and aroused up. I verily believe that the [very existence] of the [Government] - almost depends upon the election of Taylor -- [?] all good men of all parts - all [parts] of the country and our glorious [constitution] unite in our noble effort to save the Republic - what is going to be done in our District about a candidate or candidates for Congress - will a local election be held? - What is the popular feeling and sentiment in Jasper upon the subject? Write to me and let me know soon - How is Col. [?] - Is he for Taylor?
Yours, & A.H. Stephens
P.S. Please present my compliments to Mrs. Reese and remember me kindly to Henry A. Glover - - A.H.S.
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