Creator: Alexander H. Stephens, 1812-1883 and Linton Stephens, 1823-1872
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.
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.
The collection is arranged in two series:
Series 1. Correspondence
1830s - 1840s
1870s - 1880s
Series 2. Family Memorabilia
Genre / Form Terms