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THE CONFEDERATE CAREER OF ALEXANDER II. STEPHENS: THE CASE REOPENED John R. Brumgardt The civtlwarcakkkhofAlexanderH. Stephens, Confederatevicepresident , has been portrayed by historians as detrimental to Southern chances for unity andsuccess. Stephens is variously described as fostering discontent among the people, hoping consistcndy for reunion, arbitrarily opposing the administration of Jefferson Davis, leading a peace conspiracy in Georgia in 1864, conspiring to remove his state from the Confederacy, and advocating policies which might have caused Confederate disintegration. Most works on the wartime South reflect these ideas.1 The prevailing portrait of Stephens, while a composite, is most succinctly presented in monographs by Rudolph Von Abele and James Z. Rabun. Von Abele, whose Alexander H. Stephens: A Biography (1946) is the last full-length study on the Georgian, has an overall tendency to approach his subject as a problem fn psychological analysis and to be flexible with available facts.2 Rabun, whose work Ls more judicious, completed his doctoral dissertation on Stephens's antebellum career in 1948 and later published two articlesand an edited Stephens letter.5 Like ? V(TSiDn of this article: was presented as a paper at the 70th Annual Meeting rk, 1970). p. 282: Louise Rile* ITiII. Joseph E. Brown and the Confederacy (Chapel TIiIl, 1939), pp 126, 251, 2a3-64; T. Conn Bryan, Confederate Georgia (Athens, 1953), pp. 99-100; Ediinind Wilson, Patriotic Core: Studies in the literature of the American War (New York, 1962), p. 427. a Kudolph Von Abele·, Alexander II. Stephens: A Bio^niphy (New York. 1946). Sccalso Von Abele, "Jefferson Davis, Nationalist," American Mercury (March, 1947): 313-19. a James Z. Kabun, "Alexander H. Stephens, 1812-1861" (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Chicago, 1948); "Alexander H. Stephens and the Confederacy," Emory University Quarterly, 6 (October. 1950): 129-146; "Alexander II. Stephens and Jefferson Davi*." American Historical Review, 5S (January, 1953): 200-321, and "A Letter for Posterity: Alexander Stephens to His Brother Linton, June3, 1864." Emory University Publications, Sources and Iteprûits, ser. H, no. 3, 1954. Civil Wm- History- Vol. XXVU. No. 1 Copyright*1981 by TheK(Charlotteville, Virginia), quoted in the Columbus Times (Columbus, Georgia), March 29, 1864. 36Coulter, Confederate States, p. 542; Joseph E. Brown to Aaron Wilbur, September 22, 1864, Aaron Wilbur Papers, EU; Columbus Times (Columbus, Georgia), September 29, 1864; Browne and Johnston, Alexander H. Stephens, 472. 37For proposais to Stephens, see M. C. Fulton to AHS, August 2, 1863, William A. H Hall to AHS, September 18, 1864, "A Stranger" to AHS, n.d., J. Scott-J B Ross-J H R Washington to AHS, September 14, 1864, AHS Papers, LC; William W. Boyce to AHS, August 24, 1864, AHS Papers, EU. Also see AHS to HVJ, September 22 and October 2, 1864, HVJ Papers, DU. 3S Browne and Johnston, Alexander H. Stephens, p. 469; AHS to HVJ, September 25, 1864, HVJ Papers, DU; AHS to Jefferson Davis, December 13, 1864, Jefferson Davis Papers, EU; AHS to William W. Boyce, October 13, 1864, AHS Papers, EU; AHS to Thomas J. Semmes, November 5, 1864, Thomas J. Semmes Papers, Dl'; Daily Constitutionalist (Augusta, Georgia), November 16, 1864. Brown and Linton called fora ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS77 The vice president was now assailed by charges that he was seeking separate state action and reunion. His position, said critics, ignored the rebel government and would, if implemented, both dissolve the Confederacy and lead to reconstruction.39 This, however, was not Stephens's intention. As he saw it, the states would meet only with consent from their respective central governments; their function would be simply to discuss possible grounds for peace; both confederations would remain intact; and any final treaty would be concluded by Washington and Richmond. Any "separate state action," therefore, would occur within the treaty-making prerogatives of the two national governments . He did not conceive this plan—it had been discussed, North and South, since 1861; nor, as he repeatedly claimed, did he think it the best means to end the war.40 However, by the autumn of 1864 he considered it the only present possibility for a pro-Southern peace. Considering the Confederate situation at this point, his plan may have been less wishful than pragmatic. Lincoln...


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