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Stephens Collection

Alexander (Left) and Linton StephensContents

  1. Descriptive Summary
  2. Biographical Note
  3. Scope and Content
  4. Arrangement
  5. Series Descriptions
  6. Container List
  7. Access Points
  8. Administrative Information 

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Alexander H. Stephens, 1812-1883 and Linton Stephens, 1823-1872
Title:  Stephens Family Collection
Dates: 1824-1946
Bulk dates: 1834-1872
Size: 15 manuscript boxes; 1 oversize box

Biographical Note

Alexander H. Stephens was born near Washington, Georgia in  1812.  He became a Georgia state legislator, United States Congressman, Vice President of the Confederate States and, briefly, governor of Georgia.  Stephens was actively involved in major political events of the pre-Civil War era: the annexation of Texas, the Compromise Act of 1850, and the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.  Although a moderate on secession, Stephens was an active defender of slavery and lifelong champion of states' rights.  His tenure as Confederate Vice President was controversial, as he criticized southern wartime strategy and negotiated with General Ulysses S. Grant and Abraham Lincoln for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.  Stephens was arrested and briefly jailed following the South's surrender.  After an initial show of support, Stephens resisted Reconstruction and opposed the 14th Amendment, which defined national citizenship and was intended to prevent individual states from limiting the civil rights of former slaves. Stephens was reelected to the House of Representatives in 1877, where he served until winning election as governor of Georgia in 1882.  He died shortly thereafter.

The events of Stephens' childhood were a defining influence throughout his life. Sickly as a child, he suffered from depression and chronic ailments as an adult, which often left him in considerable pain.  Contemporaries remarked on his frail physique and melancholy personality.  Stephens' mother, Margaret, died several months after his birth; his father was then remarried to Matilda Lindsey. Both his father and stepmother died in 1826, leaving Stephens an orphan along with his brother, two stepbrothers and a stepsister.  The children were separated and sent to live with relatives:  Alexander and his brother to his mother's family and the other children to that of Matilda Lindsey's.  Despite this separation, Stephens developed an extremely close relationship with his stepbrother Linton, who was 13 years younger.  At age 25 Alexander Stephens became Linton's legal guardian.  He provided for Linton's college education, served as role model for Linton's own political career and maintained a close relationship with Linton -- to a great extent by letter --  until the latter's death in 1872.  Stephens never married; the emotional linchpin of his adult life was his relationship with Linton.

Linton Stephens, although prominent within Georgia politics for 25 years, was not as well known a figure as his stepbrother.  In addition to his law practice, Linton served in the Georgia legislature during the 1840s and 1850s and as a Georgia Supreme Court justice from 1859 to 1860.  He resigned this position due to ill health, a condition he shared with Alexander.  Like his stepbrother, Linton was conservative on the issue of secession and often critical of Jefferson Davis.  However, he volunteered for the Confederate Army and served in 1861.  He died after a brief illness in 1872. 

Although Linton's career never rivalled that of his stepbrother, his letters are interesting in their own right.  Generally written from his home in Sparta, Georgia, they often describe daily life in some detail, including plantation matters, relationships with slaves, health problems among his family, and stories of friends and relatives.  His frequent references to his three daughters by his first wife, Emmeline Bell Stephens, as well as her pregnancies and death from puerperal fever in 1857, offer a revealing glimpse into the intimate life of a prominent Georgia family before the Civil War.

Scope and Content

Correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, postcards, and manuscripts documenting the life of Alexander H. Stephens, his brother Linton Stephens, and Linton's family.  The bulk of the collection consists of personal correspondence (approximately 2,800 letters) between Alexander and Linton Stephens in the years from 1834 to 1872.  Additional material  includes speeches, clippings and manuscripts relating to the political careers of Alexander Stephens and Linton Stephens, family histories,  photographs, and postcards of Alexander Stephens's home, Liberty Hall.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in two series:

  1. Correspondence
  2. Family Memorabilia

Series Descriptions

  1. Correspondence
    Personal correspondence between Alexander and Linton Stephens, primarily regarding family, domestic, and political matters, with occasional enclosures of clippings, letters from other correspondents, and transcriptions of letters.  Arranged chronologically.  A lengthy calendar, available on site,  gives a brief summary of each letter.  Folders 1 - 342 in 14 manuscript boxes.  Dates: 1834 - 1872
  2. Family Memorabilia
    Newspaper clippings regarding Alexander Stephens and Linton Stephens, as well as reprints of their speeches; obituaries of Linton's daughter Mother Claude Stephens; family photographs; postcards and photos of Liberty Hall, Alexander Stephens's home; manuscripts of speeches and articles by Alexander Stephens.  Folders 343 - 374 in two manuscript boxes and one oversize box.  Dates: 1850s - 1946.

Container List

Series 1. Correspondence

1830s - 1840s

  • Folder 1: 1834-1838
  • Folder 2: 1839
  • Folders 3 and 4: 1840
  • Folders 5 and 6: 1841
  • Folders 7 -- 9: 1842
  • Folders 10 - 11: 1843
  • Folders 12 - 17: 1844
  • Folders 18 - 36: 1845
  • Folders 37 - 42: 1846
  • Folders 43 - 45: 1847
  • Folders 46-48: 1848
  • Folders 49 - 51: 1849

1850s

  • Folders 52 - 63: 1850
  • Folders 64 - 66: 1851
  • Folders 67 - 71: 1852
  • Folders 72 - 76: 1853
  • Folders 77 - 90: 1854
  • Folders 91 - 98: 1855
  • Folders 99 -107: 1856
  • Folders 108 - 117: 1857
  • Folders 118 - 131: 1858
  • Folders 132 - 146: 1859

1860s

  • Folders 147 - 166: 1860
  • Folders 167 - 190: 1861
  • Folders 191 - 203: 1862
  • Folders 204 - 220: 1863
  • Folders 221 - 236: 1864
  • Folders 237 - 242: 1865
  • Folders 243 - 257: 1866
  • Folders 258 - 273: 1867
  • Folders 274 - 287: 1868
  • Folders 288 - 312: 1869

1870s - 1880s

  • Folders 313 - 327: 1870
  • Folders 328 - 337: 1871
  • Folders 338 - 340  1872
  • Folders 341 - 342: 1873 - 1883

Series 2. Family Memorabilia

Box 1

  • Folders 343 - 352:
  • Stephens family histories; family letters; reprints and typescripts of speeches by Alexander Stephens; newspaper clippings; obituaries of Mother Claude Stephens, Linton's daughter
  • Folders 353: two illustrations of Alexander Stephens including a contemporary cartoon from the satirical magazine Puck
  • Folders 354 - 358: manuscripts of speeches and articles by Alexander and Linton Stephens

Box 2

  • Folders 359 - 366: Stephens family photographs
  • Folders 367 - 374: postcards, illustrations and photos of Liberty Hall, Alexander Stephens's estate, and of his burial place and boyhood home

Box 3

  • Newspaper clippings

Access Points

Personal Names

  • Stephens, Alexander Hamilton, 1812-1883.
  • Stephens, Linton, 1823-1872
  • Stephens, Mother Claude, 1855-1946

Topical Subjects

  • Confederate States of America -- Vice Presidents
  • Confederate States of America -- Social conditions
  • Georgia -- Governors
  • Legislators -- United States
  • Georgia -- Politics and government -- 1775-1865
  • United States Civil War, 1861-1865
  • United States -- Social conditions -- 1783-1865
  • United States -- History -- 1783-1865
  • Family -- United States -- History

Genre / Form Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Clippings
  • Postcards
  • Photographs
  • Manuscripts

Administrative Information

  • Access: Unrestricted
  • Provenance:
    Bequeathed by Mother Claude Stephens, RSCJ, daughter of Linton Stephens and niece of Alexander Stephens, on her death in 1946.   Mother Stephens sorted, arranged and indexed the letters over a period of seven years, from 1934-1941. She died at Manhattanville after 35 years of service to the school and college.
  • Preferred Citation:
    Alexander H. Stephens Collection,  Identification and date of item,  Manhattanville College Library Special Collections, Purchase, NY 10577.
  • Collection rehoused and finding aid compiled by Claire Gabriel, May-August 2003.