Alexander Hamilton Stephens, an American statesman, born in Taliaferro co., Ga., Feb. 11, 1812. He graduated at Franklin college, Athens, Ga., in 1832, was admitted to the bar in 1834, and rapidly obtained a large and lucrative practice at Crawfordville. He was elected to the legislature of Georgia in 1836, and was reelected for five successive terms. In 1842 he was elected to the state senate. In 1843 he was elected as a whig to congress, and held his seat till 1859. In February, 1847, he submitted a series of resolutions in relation to the Mexican war, which afterward formed the platform of the whig party. He opposed the Clayton compromise in 1848, and took a leading part in the compromises of 1850. The passage of the Kansas and Nebraska act of 1854 in the house of representatives was strongly supported by him as chairman of the committee on territories. After the breaking up of the whig party he acted with the democrats. At the close of the 35th congress Mr. Stephens declined to be again a candidate, and on July 2, 1859, he made a speech at Augusta, Ga., announcing his retirement from public life.
During the presidential canvass of 1860 he sustained Douglas, and denounced those who advocated a dissolution of the Union in case of Mr. Lincoln's election; and in November, 1860, he made a speech before the legislature of Georgia against secession, on which subject he had an interesting correspondence with Mr. Lincoln in December. He was nevertheless elected to the secession convention which met at Milledgeville, Jan. 16, 1861, and there spoke and voted against the secession ordinance. He was a member of the southern congress which met in Montgomery, Ala., in February, and was elected vice president of the confederacy. On March 21 he delivered a speech in Savannah, in which he declared slavery to be the corner stone of the new government. (See Confederate States.) On April 23, as a special commissioner from the Confederate States, he addressed the convention at Richmond, urging the union of Virginia with the confederacy. He frequently differed from the policy of the Richmond government, especially on the subject of martial law; and on Sept. 8, 1862, he pronounced the appointment by Gen. Bragg of James M. Calhoun as civil governor of Atlanta a palpable usurpation. His letter on this subject created a marked sensation through the south.
On Feb. 3, 1865, with R. M. T. Hunter and John A. Campbell, he held an informal conference on a steamer in Hampton roads with President Lincoln and Mr. Seward, which had no practical result. After Lee's surrender Stephens returned to his home in Crawfordville, where on May 11, 1865, he was arrested and sent to Fort Warren in Boston harbor; but on Oct. 11 he was released on parole. On Feb. 22, 1866, he delivered a speech before the legislature of Georgia favoring the restoration policy of President Johnson. In the same month he was elected to the United States senate, but as the state had not complied with the conditions of reconstruction, he was not permitted to take his seat. In 1872 he was elected to congress, and again in 1874, almost without opposition. He has published "A Constitutional View of the Late War between the States, its Causes, Character, Conduct, and Results" (2 vols. 8vo, Philadelphia, 1868-'70), and several speeches. - See "Alexander II. Stephens, in Public and Private," with his letters and speeches before, during, and since the war, by Henry Cleveland (8vo, Philadelphia, 1867).