Alexander H. Stephens papers, 1823-1954 (bulk 1823-1883)

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Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, 1812-1883

Alexander H. Stephens (1812-1883) was a Georgia lawyer, politician and Vice President of the Confederate States of America.

The collection includes a large amount of correspondence as well as bills/receipts, financial papers, legal papers, political papers, clippings and printed material. It ranges in date from 1823 to 1954, with the bulk covering 1823-1883.

8 Linear Feet
approx. 3,000 Items
Collection ID:


Scope and content:

The collection includes correspondence, bills and receipts, financial papers, legal papers, political papers, clippings and printed material and ranges in date from 1823-1954, with the bulk dated 1823-1883. Due to preservation concerns, some items were copied onto acid-free paper and stamped as preservation copies. The originals were placed in mylar and are located in Box 7. Patrons should consult with Rubenstein Library staff before handling these materials.

The vast majority of the collection is comprised of correspondence, covering the years 1823-1883. Many of the letters in the collection were written to Stephens, although there are letters written in his own hand. Throughout the correspondence are letters written to Stephens by various family members, most notably his brothers John and Linton. The bulk of the correspondence pertains to Stephens' law work, regarding issues such as the settling of estates and the collection of debts. The most prominent topics include family matters, business and legal matters and Stephens' health. Given the expansive amount of correspondence, below is a breakdown by decade of other topics which appear, in an effort to assist the researcher in locating materials of interest:

Correspondence 1823-1839: Topics include States' Rights, slavery, and an Indian war in Florida [possibly the Creek War]. There is a letter from Herschel V. Johnson who sought advice from Stephens in 1839 regarding negotiations with a railroad company.

Correspondence 1840-1849: Topics include local and national politics/views, opinions about President Martin Van Buren, "agricultural politics," Thomas Dorr and the People's Party, the purchasing of slaves, the 1843 Boston visit of President John Tyler and Vice President Daniel Webster, Stephens' nomination to serve in the U. S. Congress, Whigs and Democrats (Stephens was invited to attend several Whig-sponsored barbeques), and the death of Stephens' brother Aaron. There is a letter from United States Representative Marshall Johnson Wellborn which discusses the Judiciary Act (1841). There are also a substantial number of letters written by and to John Bird and letters written to him and Stephens (they were likely law partners). Of note are two letters written in 1844 by [Sarvis] Pearson (presumably a client of Stephens or his firm) to his estranged wife Mary S. Pearson which offer insight into the subject of divorce and marital discord of the time period.

Correspondence 1850-1859: Letters written by Stephens start to appear more frequently. Topics include largely family and legal matters.

Correspondence 1860-1869: Topics include employment inquiries both pre- and post-Civil War, autograph requests, Stephens' book about the Civil War, and the social history of a post-Civil War Georgia. Items of note: There are petitions (1860) by Stephens' district constituents asking him to address them about the presidential election. There are letters asking him for permission to travel into the Union. There are a couple of letters written by Stephens to Jefferson Davis. There is a letter from March 1860 to Pearce Stevons [Stephens] by Rody Jordan, both of whom were not only brothers but slaves as well. The letter is likely written by someone other than Jordan. A letter to Stephens in October 1866 states that his former slave Pearce was charged with murder and asks for Stephens' legal counsel at Pearce's request (he apparently complied based on a letter from 1869).

Correspondence 1870-1879: Topics include requests for employment and financial help, requests for letters of recommendation, Linton Stephens' death, Stephens' paper the Daily and Weekly Sun, the federal government, autograph requests, and Stephens' work with the Committee on Standard Weights and Measures. Item of note: There are documents from 1873 concerning an illegal distilling and corruption case in Georgia.

Correspondence 1880-1883: Topics includes Stephens' opinion of President James A. Garfield, his bid for Governor, requests for financial help and letters of recommendation for men interested in state posts appointed by the Governor, such as Physician of the Georgia Penitentiary. Items of note: There is a letter dated 1883 signed by Secretary of War, Robert Todd Lincoln. There are two letters from 1882 which offer some insight into African-American involvement in Georgia politics.

Biographical / historical:

Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born in Crawfordville, Taliaferro County, Georgia on February 11, 1812 to Andrew B. and Margaret Grier Stephens. He graduated from Franklin College (later the University of Georgia) in 1832, where he was a member of the Phi Kappa Literary Society. He taught school for the next eighteen months while pursuing legal studies and passed the bar in Georgia in 1834. Stephens maintained a successful law practice for thirty-two years while simultaneously serving as an elected official in both state and federal political realms and as Vice President of the Confederate States of America. He died in 1883.

Chronology List
Date Event
Elected to the Georgia House of Representatives as a Whig; served until 1840
Elected to the Georgia State Senate; served for one year.
Elected to the United States Congress; served until 1859
Elected to attend the Secession Convention of Georgia
Elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America
Arrested by the United States; served five months in prison
Elected to the United States Senate but not allowed to take his seat
Elected to United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ambrose R. Wright; served until his resignation in 1882
Elected Governor of Georgia
1883, March 4
Died in Georgia
Acquisition information:
The Alexander H. Stephens Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book Manuscript Library as purchases between 1946-1962.
Processing information:

Processed by Kimberly Sims, November 2008

Encoded by Kimberly Sims, November 2008

Multiple accessions were merged into one collection, described in this finding aid.

Physical location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Rules or conventions:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard


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Preferred citation:

[Identification of item], Alexander H. Stephens Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library