Alexander Hamilton Stephens His Defense for Secession and His vice Presidency during the Civil War Alexander Hamilton Stephens was born on February 12, 1812 near Crawfordville, Georgia. He helped organize the Whig Party in Georgia and in 1843 was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in which he served until 1859. In early 1861 just before the outbreak of the Civil War, serious economic and ideological differences among the states' rights and slavery divided the people of the nation, and the country geographically. Nineteen states, including the industrialized northern states, prohibited slavery. While 15 southern states whose economies depended on agriculture, permitted the ownership of slaves. 11 of the southern states withdrew from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.
Stephens opposed the immediate secession movement in Georgia in 1860-1861, he cautioned that revolutions once begun were hard to control and that slavery was safer inside the Union, but after the state had voted to secede he supported it's action, like so many other southerners, he had no thought other than that of following his state once secession had been determined. Part of this decision-making could have been the development of his "southern ism concept", which was long before the civil war. It was a southern idea in which they referred not to state and nation but to section, as the focal point of admiration of their allegiances. Stephens quote "The south is my home - my fatherland.
There sleep the ashes of my sire and grand sires, there are my hopes and prospects; with her my fortunes are cast; her fate is my fate and her destiny my destiny" (unquote). The formation of the Confederacy began in Montgomery, Alabama on February 4, 1861. It was formed to express state's rights and expand a centralized nation. Montgomery had to justify the legal right of secession.
That justification was obtained through Georgia's Unionist Alexander Stephens. Her provided the most famous constitutional defense of secession. Stephens based his argument on the premise that rested ultimately in the people of the states, as distinguished from their state governments. The supreme law of the federal constitution did not make the national government have supreme rank or power over the people of the states who had originated the supreme law clause as part of a federal structure and who could a grant that they themselves had made. On Feb. 8, 1861 Montgomery wrote a Constitution for the Confederate States which was later unanimously adopted by the Montgomery Congress on March 11, 1861. The main differences between the U.S. Constitution and the Confederate Constitution appeared in the features that guaranteed states' rights, safeguarded slavery and instituted minor improvements in governmental machinery.
Slavery was explicitly defended in the southern constitution. No federal law "denying... the right of property in Negro slaves" could be passed. In Confederate, territory slavery was to be recognized and protected by Congress territorial government. On Feb. 9, 1861, Alexander Stephens was effected vice president of the Confederate States. The government became, for the south, a successor to the federal government. The Confederacy began to face important problems in the early weeks of its existence.
The tariff, navigation of Mississippi River the post office, the seizure of the U.S. funds, appeals to the other slaveholding states to join the Confederacy and the control Indian affairs. As the Southern states seceded, they seized and occupied most of the federal forts within their borders or off their shores. Only four remained in the hand of the Union with Fort Sumter being the most important. Sumter stood guard in the mouth of the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina.
South Carolina was the first state to secede from the Union on Dec. 12, 1860. Sumter was the site of the first battle of the Civil War. Sumter was of importance to the Union because it ahs became a symbol for the Union. To give it up, Lincoln felt, was to violate his sworn oath to protect the properties of the U.S. and the northerners looked on Sumter as a test of the presidents' commitment in his inaugural address that no more surrender's would take place.
April 13th major, Anderson surrendered the Fort Sumter because of lack of supplies and extensive fire damage inside and out. Following the attack on Fort Sumter, four more stated seceded (Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina). As the war progressed geographical planning and technological advances began to play a major role in the war, along with the first draft act passed by the Confederacy in April of 1862. This draft caused as many problems as it solved. The draft act brought about the prisoner of war issue, the issues of exchange, parole, release, and the Confederates treatment of black soldiers. The confederates refused to return black Union soldiers.
Confederate Army executed or enslaved captured black slaves. As like any war, the Civil war was very costly. The difficulties of financing the war aggravated the problems of the Confederacy. They were unable to finance a war without much gold and silver, without a financial plan and a community resolve to use taxation as an economic tool. The southerners never tried heavy taxation because the government had no means to collect taxes, and the people were reluctant to pay them. Therefore, they relied on paper, which dropped in value as the war went on.
Earlier in the war, Alexander Stephens proposed the idea of the "produce loan". His proposal was to issue 8% bonds up to $100 million dollars on the cotton crops of 1860 and 1861, buy ironclad steamers, and send the cotton to Europe, where it would stored until it's price reached 50 cents a pound, then it would be sold at 10 times the value of bonds. The produce loans had planters turning over their cotton and commodities to the government in return for Confederate bonds. Some planters did not like the idea of parting with their cotton for government paper so the loan proposal failed. Therefore, the Confederacy turned back to the printing press.
The confederate paper money was never made a legal tender, for it would increase the value the notes. More and more treasury notes rolled from the printing press, all other forms of official currency were driven into hiding, and the Confederacy was soon plagued by the lack of uniform currency. There was counterfeiting everywhere. The Confederacy suffered from severe inflation and debt throughout the year. Until the southerners began trading across the lines to the enemy, which helped to bring greenbacks and scarce goods which were converted into supplies to support the troops in the fields. This was one of the events that led up to the collapse of the confederacy.
Some other symptoms of the approaching collapse of the Confederacy was the Richmond's government response to political challenges of having no political parties, conspiracies existing in some of the southern countries and the embarrassment suffered of having spies working for the Union. These symptoms and the illegal activity of the currency caused more tension in the south. From which Alexander Stephens challenged the administration of which he was a part, and opposed attempts to give the Confederate president much needed powers. If the right to suspend the writ of habeas corpus was granted to the president then Stephens predicted in 1864 (quote) Constitutional liberty will go down, never again to rise on this continent."Far better that our country should be overrun by the enemy, our cities sacked and burned and our land desolate", than that the people should thus suffer the citadel of their liberties to be entered and taken by professed friends".
(Unquote). Stephens began initiating a peace movement in Georgia, endorsing governor Browns rhetoric about the re-establishing the principles of the declaration of independence-" the right of all self-government and the sovereignty of the states". Nothing came about this Stephens peace movement, but by him schooling southerners in the conviction that their president was responsible for their suffering and by playing on the traditional themes of southern concerns he and governor Brown had won the people. As the war came close to, an end religion began to play a major role on the Confederate part and the other southerners. Southerners believed that God intervened in human affairs shaping events, rewarding the good and punishing the bad. They believed that God was on their side at first because of their many victories in battle.
God's impact helped resigned southerners to defeat and in a self-fulfilling prophecy lessened their resolve. On Feb. 3, 1865 Lincoln met with Confederates headed by Alexander Stephens among the Union transport "River Queen" lying in Hampton Roads, Virginia in a futile attempt to arrange satisfactory peace terms, after 4 hours terms were not agreed upon. When the South surrendered later that year, Stephens was imprisoned for a brief time. In 1866, he was elected U.S. senator from Georgia but the Senate refused to seat him because the he has served as a Confederate Congressman and northerners were afraid. Northerners wrote to a newspaper stating that: "What scares is the idea that the rebels are all to be let back... and made power in the government again, just as though there had been no rebellion". He was a member of the U. 's.
House of Representatives from 1873 to 1882 and in the later year was elected governor of Georgia; he died in Atlanta on March 4, 1883. The defeat of the south in the civil war was considered to have decided the question of secession in favor of the federal government; the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed this decision.