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Alexander H. Stephens in Reconstruction

Alexander Stephens (1812-1883) was a politician who served in the Georgia legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives before the American Civil War. Throughout his career, Stephens defended slavery but opposed disunion, favoring sectional compromises instead. When his home state of Georgia voted in 1861 to secede from the Union, Stephens reluctantly followed. His fellow southern leaders chose him to serve as vice president of the Confederacy throughout the Civil War.

When the Confederacy fell in May 1865, Stephens was arrested and imprisoned for five months at Fort Warren, Massachusetts. He was an early proponent of peace but provoked northern outrage when Georgia elected him to the Senate in 1866. Thanks to his high rank in the Confederacy, Stephens was a particularly symbolic example of the failure of Presidential Reconstruction. Many northerners felt that to re-admit him to Congress was tantamount to betraying the memories of their sons, husbands, and brothers who had died for the Union. The Republican majority denied Stephens his seat because his state had not been properly reconstructed according to the congressional guidelines. Stephens was nonetheless reelected to the House of Representatives from 1873-1882, and then served as governor of Georgia from 1882-1883.

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