Menu

Guide to the Alexander H. Stephens Papers, 1823-1954 (bulk 1823-1883)

ahslt010010010
Digitized Content
Some materials from this collection have been digitized and are viewable from within this collection guide. Start Viewing Now »
Show only the digitized content.

Abstract

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.

Descriptive Summary

Title
Alexander H. Stephens papers
Creator
Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, 1812-1883.
Extent
8.0 linear feet, approx. 3,000 Items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University
Location
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

Collection Overview

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.

Administrative Information

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 48 business hours in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Also, all or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. Consequently, there may be a 24-hour delay in obtaining these materials.

Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library to use this collection.

warning Use Restrictions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1823-1835
Box 1
Correspondence, 1836
Box 1
Correspondence, 1837
Box 1
Correspondence, 1838
Box 1
Correspondence, 1839 Jan.-July
Box 1
Correspondence, 1839 Aug.-Dec.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1840 Jan.-July
Box 1
Correspondence, 1840 Aug.-Dec.
Box 1
Correspondence, 1841 Jan.-April
Box 1
Correspondence, 1841 May-Aug.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1841 Sept.-Dec.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1842 Jan.-Feb.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1842 Mar.-May
Box 2
Correspondence, 1842 June-July
Box 2
Correspondence, 1842 Aug.-Dec.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1843 Jan.-Feb.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1843 Mar.-June
Box 2
Correspondence, 1843 July-Aug.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1843 Sept.-Dec.
Box 2
Correspondence, 1844-1845
Box 3
Correspondence, 1846-1847
Box 3
Correspondence, 1848
Box 3
Correspondence, 1849
Box 3
Correspondence, 1850-1851
Box 3
Correspondence, 1852-1853
Box 3
Correspondence, 1854-1856
Box 3
Correspondence, 1857-1858
Box 3
Correspondence, 1859
Box 3
Correspondence, 1860 Jan.-Aug.
Box 3
Correspondence, 1860 Sept.-Dec.
Box 4
Correspondence, 1861
Box 4
Correspondence, 1862
Box 4
Correspondence, 1863 Jan.-1865 Dec.
Box 4
Correspondence, 1866 Jan.-Aug.
Box 4
Correspondence, 1866 Sept.-1867 July
Box 4
Correspondence, 1867 Aug.-1868 Dec.
Box 4
Correspondence, 1869
Box 4
Correspondence, 1870
Box 4
Correspondence, 1871
Box 4
Correspondence, 1872
Box 4
Correspondence, 1873 Jan.-May
Box 4
Correspondence, 1873 June-Sept.
Box 5
Correspondence, 1873 Oct.-Dec.
Box 5
Correspondence, 1874 Jan.-May
Box 5
Correspondence, 1874 June-Dec.
Box 5
Correspondence, 1875 Jan.-July
Box 5
Correspondence, 1875 Aug.-Oct.
Box 5
Correspondence, 1875 Nov.-Dec.
Box 5
Correspondence, 1876
Box 5
Correspondence, 1877-1878
Box 5
Correspondence, 1879
Box 5
Correspondence, 1880-1881
Box 6
Correspondence, 1882 Jan.-Sept.
Box 6
Correspondence, 1882 Oct.-Dec.
Box 6
Correspondence, 1883
Box 6
Correspondence, undated (2 folders)
Box 6
Bills/Receipts, 1836-1859
Box 6
Bills/Receipts, 1860-1869
Box 6
Bills/Receipts, 1871-1879
Box 6
Bills/Receipts, 1880-1883
Box 6
Financial Papers, 1840-1880, undated (2 folders)
Box 7
Political Papers, 1866-1882, undated
Box 7
Legal Papers, 1837-1882, undated
Box 7
Printed Material, 1871-1872, 1878-1879, 1882-1883, 1954
Box 7
Clippings, 1860-1861, 1870, 1911, undated
Box 7
Advertisements, circa 1870s-1880s
Box 7
Miscellaneous, circa 1840s-1916 (2 folders)
Box 7
Preservation Originals (2 folders)
Box 7

Historical Note

Date Event(s)
1836 Elected to the Georgia House of Representatives as a Whig; served until 1840
1842 Elected to the Georgia State Senate; served for one year.
1843 Elected to the United States Congress; served until 1859
1861 Elected to attend the Secession Convention of Georgia
1861 Elected Vice President of the Confederate States of America
1865 Arrested by the United States; served five months in prison
1866 Elected to the United States Senate but not allowed to take his seat
1873 Elected to United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Ambrose R. Wright; served until his resignation in 1882
1882 Elected Governor of Georgia
1883, March 4 Died in Georgia

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.

Subject Headings

Related Material

  • John Jordan Crittenden Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
  • Alfred Gumming Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
  • Marmaduke Hamilton Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
  • Paul Hamilton Hayne Papers (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)
  • Alexander Hamilton Stephens Letters, Microfilm, Manhattanville College (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library)

Preferred Citation

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

Provenance

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.

Descriptive sources and standards used to create this inventory: DACS, EAD, NCEAD guidelines, and our local Style Guide.

This finding aid is NCEAD compliant.