Vice President Alexander H. Stephens, Confederate States of America


Alexander H. Stephens (1812‒83) was vice president of the Confederate States of America. Born on a small farm in the Georgia Piedmont, he studied law, was admitted to the bar, and soon was elected to the Georgia state assembly. In 1843 he was elected to the U.S. Congress as a member of the Whig Party. Unusually for a southern politician, he had reservations about the annexation of Texas and opposed the Mexican War and President James K. Polk’s vast program of territorial expansion, all of which he believed would create unnecessary friction between north and south and in the end endanger the institution of slavery, which he supported. When Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860, Stephens urged his fellow Georgians to reject secession. When secession came, Stephens was chosen as vice president, in part to provide a large-state, one time anti-secessionist counterweight to the more radical President Jefferson Davis from the small state of Mississippi. Stephens was not close to Davis, and criticized his conduct of the war. After the Civil War, Stephens was elected to Congress in 1873 and as governor of Georgia in 1882. He served only four months as governor before he died in office. The image is from an album of mostly Civil War-era portraits by the famous American photographer Matthew Brady (circa 1823‒96) that belonged to Emperor Pedro II of Brazil (1825‒91), a collector of photography as well as a photographer himself. The album was a gift to the emperor from Edward Anthony (1818‒88), another early American photographer who, in partnership with his brother, owned a company that in the 1850s became the leading seller of photographic supplies in the United States. Dom Pedro may have acquired the album during a trip to the United States in 1876 when he, along with President Ulysses S. Grant, opened the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Brady was born in upstate New York, the son of immigrants from Ireland. Best known for his photographs documenting the battles of the American Civil War, he began his career in 1844 when he opened a daguerreotype portrait studio at the corner of Broadway and Fulton Streets in New York City. Over the course of the next several decades, Brady produced portraits of leading American public figures, many of which were published as engravings in magazines and newspapers. In 1858 he opened a branch in Washington, DC. The album, which also contains a small number of non-photographic prints, is part of the Thereza Christina Maria Collection at the National Library of Brazil. The collection is composed of 21,742 photos assembled by Emperor Pedro II throughout his life and donated by him to the national library. The collection covers a wide variety of subjects. It documents the achievements of Brazil and Brazilians in the 19th century and also includes many photographs of Europe, Africa, and North America.

Last updated: January 8, 2018