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Alexander H. Stephens at Home.


September/October 1860

From The Missouri Democrat, Wednesday, October 3, 1860.


What he thinks of the Present Political Aspect—A Ride through his Plantation—Visit from Toombs, the Disunionist.

[Correspondence of the N. Y. Herald.]

CRAWFORDSVILLE, Taliaferro Co., Ga.,
September 26, 1860.

Leaving his baggage at the humble inn in this little village, which numbers but three hundred inhabitants, white and black, your correspondent inquired the direction to the residence of the Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, the best beloved politician in the State of Georgia.  Walking to the corner of a street, a short distance from the inn, our informant pointed in a northerly direction, and said, “There is Mr. Stephens’ house, where that white gate is, where you see that light”—for the sun had set, and the curtains of night were closing around.  In a few minutes your correspondent found himself within the enclosure and walking up a broad avenue toward Mr. Stephens’ house.  Upon a capacious porch in front of the dwelling, a fine hound dog bayed deep-mouthed warning that a stranger was approaching; but cries of “Down, pup!”  “Be quiet, pup!”  quieted the dog, and we entered the house.

The first object that met our view was that of a person, apparently a slightly-formed youth, walking thoughtfully through a wide passage way that extended from one side of the dwelling to the other, and open to the air and sunshine at either end.  On approaching this slight, apparently fragile personage, we discovered at once, from his deeply marked and careworn features, his broad forehead, his intelligent and eloquent black eye, that it was no youth who stood before us, but Mr. Stephens himself.  He now weighs ninety-two pounds, and weighed but eighty-four when he commenced law practice in Crawfordville.  The ceremony of introduction passed, Mr. Stephens remarked, “Let me send to the hotel for your luggage, and stop with me while you tarry here.”  We thanked him, and accepted his invitation.  It should here be mentioned that the residence of Mr. Stephens is called “Liberty Hall,” and whether Mr. S. be at home or not, the latch-string is invariably hung outside for visitors and friends, and servants are always at hand to extend the hospitalities of the mansion.



Although laboring under a severe attack of neuralgia in the head, Mr. Stephens at once engaged in conversation, and plunged into the subject of the dangers that now imperil the Union.

“The Northern people,” he remarked, “do not know what dangers threaten the country.  They appear to think lightly of what is said at the South, and to treat with contempt the protests the Southerners make against the continual warfare the Abolitionists are making upon their social institution.  They do not know what slavery is, and are ignorant of its first principles.  At the same time the pro-slavery sentiment is increasing in strength.  I believe that ninety per cent of the Republicans of the North are as pro slavery in their opinions now as ninety per cent of the Southern slaveholders were thirty years ago.  The popularity of slavery has increased, and not diminished within that time; and as far as the permanence of the institution is concerned, I have no objection that Mr. Seward’s ‘irrepressible conflict’ doctrine should be put to the test, for I believe it would end in the triumph of slavery.”  Mr. S. recapitulated the history of anti slavery movements from Wilberforce down, said the sentiment of the English people, in consequence of the failure of emancipation in Jamaica to produce the anticipated beneficial results to the black race, was having a pro-slavery tendency, and that the London Times had already taken an attitude in that direction.  No government has successfully proposed a substitute for African slave labor.  The apprenticeship system has been tried and failed.  The coolie system had been tried and failed, and African slavery continues to flourish.  He remarked that the deductions of the abolitionists from their standpoints were correct, but that their standpoints were wrong and erroneous.



“If you think the popularity of slavery is on the increase,” we ventured to inquire, “why do you apprehend danger to the South?”

Mr. Stephens—Not to the South alone, but to the whole country.  There are fanatics South as well as North.  There are men here who would break up the country as they have broken up the Democratic party.  They have nothing but selfish aims and objects.  They seek place, preferment and power.  Knowing they would not obtain either as long as the Democratic party existed, they set about the work of destroying the party, and they have accomplished their purpose.  The course I have taken in opposition to these men is what I believe to be the course of duty—duty to my State and to the country, and although Georgia may cast her vote for the disunionists and revolutionists, I shall maintain the stand I have taken.  I have retired from political life, and there is no public office that would tempt me to re-enter it.  The course I am taking in the present canvass is dictated by a desire to do all I can to prevent a catastrophe which I believe to be not only imminent, but certain, in case of Lincoln’s election.  The country is now ruled by demagogues; the race of statesmen and patriots has run out, politics is the means resorted to by sordid men to obtain their ends, at the sacrifice of principle and honor; and I do not desire to keep such company.

Reporter—Do you believe Lincoln’s election sure?

Mr. Stephens—I conceive no other result, in view of the discordant condition of the opposing elements North and South.

Rep.—What will follow?

Mr. Stephens—Undoubtedly an attempt at secession and revolution.  I have viewed with painful apprehension the approaching crisis for years past.  Fifteen years’ experience in Congress has qualified me to become somewhat intimately acquainted with the temper and feelings of our people; and I am satisfied beyond a doubt that, in the event of Lincoln’s election, there will be at least an attempt at revolution.  There will be blood spilt—some may be hung; but that the attempt will be made I am certain.  I cannot foretell the end, but I hold revolution and civil war to be inevitable.  The demagogues have raised a whirlwind they cannot control nor stand before, and as much as I deplore the event I cannot close my eyes to its consequences.

Mr. Stephens spoke with much earnestness on this subject; and that he religiously believed what he said, was manifest from his impressive manner.

Rep.  But Mr. Breckinridge, who is supported by the disunionists, is a Union man.

Mr. Stephens.  I know that, and it is for that reason, I suppose, one of his supporters in this State was led some time since to say that he (Breckinridge) would probably be the first man the disunionists would have to hang.



Beside his home residence in Crawfordville, which covers about 30 acres of land, including a fine peach and apple orchard, a garden in which the pomegranates are now bursting with their luscious sweets, and fig trees overshadow the ground, and roses of the finest varieties are in full bloom, Mr. Stephens has a plantation about two miles distant, embracing some 1,100 acres.  A portion of this plantation belonged to his parents.  His grandfather died and was buried on the spot; his father and mother lived and died there, and the property falling into other hands, it was not until the expiration of many years that Mr. Stephens was enabled to achieve the proudest object of his life’s ambition, the redemption of his patrimonial estates.  He has since added considerably to its proportions, and by improving its culture rendered it one of the finest plantations in the country.  It was to this place that the biggest-littlest man in the State of Georgia invited your correspondent to take a horseback ride yesterday (Sunday) morning.

During the ride through his plantation Mr. Stephens pointed out his vineyard, comprising four acres of land.  The vine are of the Catawba variety, in healthful condition, and next year will produce, Mr. S. calculates, about a thousand gallons of wine.  He has also near his residence about an acre of land, in which he has planted what he intends shall be a model vineyard, and from its fine situation, the thriftiness of the first year’s growth, and other significant reasons, there is no doubt his expectations will be realized.  Mr. S. devotes considerable of his time to his plantation, and a day or two since he might have been seen sowing rye in one of his fields.  He has introduced the practice of sub-soil plowing in his cotton and corn fields with great advantage, and the system is being adopted by the planters generally in the neighborhood.



After returning and attending divine service, I was told that it was likely Senator Toombs would stop in, passing on his way homewards; and take tea with Mr. Stephens.  With the evening train from Augusta along came the great Southern agitator.  His features in the pictures bear a strong resemblance to him, but they do not dance like those of the original.  Mr. Toombs is of an active, and I should think of rather a jolly temperament.  He looks as if he could sing “Widow Machree” with as much effect as John Brougham, to whom, by the way, he bears a strong resemblance.  And, like one of John’s favorite characters, Toombs is evidently waiting for “something to turn up.”

We asked, “What do you intend doing in case of Lincoln’s election?”

Mr. Toombs—Resist him.

Rep.—Without waiting for an overt act?

Mr. Toombs—We have overt acts enough already; the personal liberty bills are sufficient.

Rep.—Who will commence the revolution?

Mr. Toombs—I will, if I have enough to back me to make treason respectable.

Mr. Toombs is bound for a split if it can possibly be obtained, and deserves the merit of sincerity.  His son-in-law, Mr. Du Bose, of Augusta, is strongly enlisted in the cause, and so are hundreds of others with whom I have conversed.  Mr. Toombs, although satisfied that the State will eventually go for Breckinridge, is not so well satisfied that he will carry it before the people.

I am obliged to omit a sketch of Mr. Stephens’ early life and struggles, and his final triumphs, for want of space and time.  He leaves to-night for Atlanta, en route for the up country, to deliver a few speeches.  His health is not good.

It should be stated that while the personal relations of Mr. Stephens and Mr. Toombs are of the most friendly nature, they differ as widely as the poles in relation to the course the State should adopt in the event of Lincoln’s election.  Mr. Toombs takes the ground that the States should forcibly resist, Mr. Stephens the reverse.  As the future, so pregnant with momentous events, developes [sic] itself, Mr. Stephens will be found, as he is now, on the side of the Union, the constitution and the country.  Mr. Toombs is and has been for disunion.