Vice President of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War.
A small, frail man nicknamed "Little Aleck," Hamilton represented Georgia in the U.S. Congress and Confederacy. His mother died soon after his birth in 1812. His father was a modest farmer and teacher who died when he was 15. He attended college at Franklin College, (now the University of Georgia) graduating in 1832. He passed the bar and became a lawyer in 1834. He owned a farm named Liberty Hall. He was reputedly a kind master to his slaves, reluctant to whip them or to separate families.
Stephens was elected to the Georgia legislature in 1836 and served until he was elected as a U.S. Representative in 1843. He became friends with Abraham Lincoln. The two were both widely known for their gift with speaking and oratory. Stephens played a part in the negotiations to admit Kansas into the Union. He left Washington in 1859 to return to private life.
Stephens was chosen to represent Georgia in the convention to decide secession in 1861. He believed the states had the right to secede, but did not think that Georgia or the other states should choose to leave the Union at that time. After the Confederacy voted to secede, Stephens was a candidate for the new Presidency despite his opposition. He was unanimously chosen as Vice President after Jefferson Davis was elected as President.
Stephens played an important part in writing the Confederate Constitution. He worked to prevent the Deep South from exerting undue influence on the proceedings. Stephens tried to prevent the hostilities through diplomatic measures until the reinforcement of Fort Sumter. He continued to seek a peaceful resolution of the War if it was based on Northern recognition of secession. Stephens also worked to promote the humane treatment and repatriation of prisoners of war.
Stephens was arrested and imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor for five months. After his release, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was refused a seat because Georgia was still considered a "state out of the Union." He was later elected to the House of Representatives and served from 1873 to 1882. He was elected Governor of Georgia in 1882 and served for four months before his death in 1883.
A sculpture of Stephens represents Georgia in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol.