photo: Alexander Stephens

Alexander Stephens

Alexander Stephens might have been completely forgotten were it not for the marble statue of him placed in the National Statuary Hall in the Capitol. Stephens now sits carved in stone, legs crossed, looking a bit grim-faced. Few people know that Alexander Stephens once served as vice president, not of the United States, but of the Confederate States of America.

Ironically, the man who became vice president of the Confederacy under Jefferson Davis actually opposed secession at first. But he stayed loyal to his state of Georgia, which had elected him to Congress.

Always weak and frail, Stephens was born in Georgia in 1812. He was orphaned as a youth. He graduated from the University of Georgia and became a lawyer in 1834. He served in the Georgia state house and senate and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1843 to 1858. He defended slavery and state sovereignty.

Abraham Lincoln liked him. John Quincy Adams wrote a poem about him. And Jefferson Davis named him his vice-president. In 1860, Abraham Lincoln wrote to Stephens saying: "You think slavery is right ... we think slavery is wrong and ought to be restricted. That I suppose is the rub. It certainly is the only substantial difference between us. Yours very truly. A. Lincoln."

Although Stephens hoped for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, this did not occur. After the South's defeat, Stephens was imprisoned for six months in Boston. He returned to Georgia, where he was elected as a senator and governor. He died in Atlanta in 1883.

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