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

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Summary

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.

Collection Details

Collection Number
RL.10096
Title
Alexander H. Stephens papers
Date
1823-1954 (bulk 1823-1883)
Extent
8 Linear Feet, approx. 3,000 Items
Repository
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library

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.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Using These Materials

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Collection is open for research.

However, collection may contain materials to which the Acknowledgment of Legal Responsibilities and Privacy Rights form applies. Patrons must sign this form before using this collection.

All or portions of this collection may be housed off-site in Duke University's Library Service Center. The library may require up to 48-hours to retrieve these materials for research use.

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

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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.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

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

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 1823-1835
Box 1
View 40 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1836
Box 1
View 36 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1837
Box 1
View 34 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1838
Box 1
View 35 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1839 Jan.-July
Box 1
View 53 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1839 Aug.-Dec.
Box 1
View 54 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1840 Jan.-July
Box 1
View 77 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1840 Aug.-Dec.
Box 1
View 43 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1841 Jan.-April
Box 1
View 87 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1841 May-Aug.
Box 2
View 78 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1841 Sept.-Dec.
Box 2
View 65 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1842 Jan.-Feb.
Box 2
View 56 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1842 Mar.-May
Box 2
View 62 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1842 June-July
Box 2
View 51 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1842 Aug.-Dec.
Box 2
View 41 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1843 Jan.-Feb.
Box 2
View 40 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1843 Mar.-June
Box 2
View 63 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1843 July-Aug.
Box 2
View 41 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1843 Sept.-Dec.
Box 2
View 53 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1844-1845
Box 3
View 58 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1846-1847
Box 3
View 56 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1848
Box 3
View 49 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1849
Box 3
View 59 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1850-1851
Box 3
View 79 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1852-1853
Box 3
View 48 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1854-1856
Box 3
View 28 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1857-1858
Box 3
View 49 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1859
Box 3
View 61 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1860 Jan.-Aug.
Box 3
View 108 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1860 Sept.-Dec.
Box 4
View 66 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1861
Box 4
View 93 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1862
Box 4
View 46 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1863 Jan.-1865 Dec.
Box 4
View 92 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1866 Jan.-Aug.
Box 4
View 59 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1866 Sept.-1867 July
Box 4
View 79 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1867 Aug.-1868 Dec.
Box 4
View 42 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1869
Box 4
View 46 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1870
Box 4
View 40 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1871
Box 4
View 49 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1872
Box 4
View 74 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1873 Jan.-May
Box 4
View 53 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1873 June-Sept.
Box 5
View 50 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1873 Oct.-Dec.
Box 5
View 29 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1874 Jan.-May
Box 5
View 70 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1874 June-Dec.
Box 5
View 76 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1875 Jan.-July
Box 5
View 80 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1875 Aug.-Oct.
Box 5
View 40 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1875 Nov.-Dec.
Box 5
View 31 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1876
Box 5
View 91 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1877-1878
Box 5
View 100 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1879
Box 5
View 58 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1880-1881
Box 6
View 49 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1882 Jan.-Sept.
Box 6
View 57 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1882 Oct.-Dec.
Box 6
View 120 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, 1883
Box 6
View 77 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Correspondence, undated
(2 folders)
Box 6
View 117 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Bills/Receipts, 1836-1859
Box 6
View 84 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Bills/Receipts, 1860-1869
Box 6
View 109 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Bills/Receipts, 1871-1879
Box 6
View 142 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Bills/Receipts, 1880-1883
Box 6
View 21 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Financial Papers, 1840-1880, undated (2 folders)
Box 7
View 114 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Political Papers, 1866-1882, undated
Box 7
View 31 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Legal Papers, 1837-1882, undated
Box 7
View 51 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Printed Material, 1871-1872, 1878-1879, 1882-1883, 1954
Box 7
View 13 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Clippings, 1860-1861, 1870, 1911, undated
Box 7
View 9 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Advertisements, circa 1870s-1880s
Box 7
View 12 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Miscellaneous, circa 1840s-1916 (2 folders)
Box 7
View 81 items (Duke Digital Repository)
Preservation Originals (2 folders)
Box 7
 

Historical Note

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(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

Related Material

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  • 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)


Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.

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.