Alexander Hamilton Stephens "Little Aleck" February 11, 1812 - March 4, 1883
"A little, slim, pale-faced, consumptive man just concluded the very best speech of an hour's length I ever heard." So wrote Congressman Abraham Lincoln, describing Alexander Hamilton Stephens from Georgia. The tall Illinoisan and small Georgian became close friends during their years together in Congress. Stephens, 5'7" tall, was about the average height for his time but he never weighed more than 100 pounds, and early in life he was given the nickname "Little Aleck." Cadaverous was a word often used to describe this pale, odd-body man with dark, lustrous eyes. Sickly and puny from birth, he wrapped himself in layer after layer of clothes and coats. Late in his life he defined happiness as, "To be warm."
Stephens's mother died shortly after his birth; his father was a farmer and schoolteacher who died when Aleck was 14. The young orphan's brilliant mind was recognized by a handful of mentors who paid for his education at Franklin College, later named the University of Georgia, from which he graduated at the top of his class. He became a lawyer and eventually owned a plantation that he named Liberty Hall. A humanitarian master to his slaves, Stephens never jailed or whipped them, and he never separated families. None of his slaves ever tried to escape.
Little Aleck possessed on of the brightest minds of his time. During his 17 years in the U.S. Congress, he gained fame as an orator- despite his high-pitched, almost girlish voice- and was a noted authority on the Constitution. A strict Unionist, Stephens voted against the secession of Georgia, but when his state left the Union, he felt honor-bound to side with the South.
When in February 1861 the Confederate Congress met in Montgomery, Ala., to form the new Southern country, Little Aleck was a chief contender for the presidency. Losing to Jefferson Davis, Stephens was quickly chosen to be vice president.
Fascinating Fact: Stephens suffered from angina, bladder stones, colitis, migraine headaches, pneumonia, pruritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and sciatica. Emphasizing with sufferers, he centered his official duties on aiding soldiers in hospitals and prisons.
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