STEPHENS, Alexander (1812-1883), Vice-president, C.S.A. Autograph letter signed (''Alexander Stephens'') TO SECRETARY OF WAR JAMES A. SEDDON, Crawfordville, Ga., 29 April 1864. 8 pp., 8vo, evidently missing a sheet (4 pp.?).
STEPHENS, Alexander (1812-1883), Vice-president, C.S.A. Autograph letter signed ("Alexander Stephens") TO SECRETARY OF WAR JAMES A. SEDDON, Crawfordville, Ga., 29 April 1864. 8 pp., 8vo, evidently missing a sheet (4 pp.?).
THE CONFEDERATE VICE-PRESIDENT PAINTS A BLEAK PICTURE OF A COLLAPSING CONFEDERACY
A lengthy and fascinating letter from Alexander Stephens denying a newspaper report that he felt "bitterness, hostility and malignancy" towards his colleagues in the Confederate government, yet containing a lengthy analysis of the economic, social and military disintegration of the Confederacy. "But in this as in all differences amongst common friends in a great common cause I assure you I was influenced by nothing except what I regarded as the public good. I was not influenced in the slightest degree by feelings of hostility or bitterness, to say nothing of malignancy towards a single mortal..."
Stephens had strongly opposed the conscription bill passed by the Confederate congress in December 1863. It eliminated the thriving market in purchased exemptions and required soldiers to remain in the army even after their enlistments expired. Stephens takes up the subject of Confederate finances and worthless paper money: "to continue to issue them with this semblance of integrity of purpose will but result in greater mischief in the end. The tythe therefor should be & should have been husbanded & guarded as gold. Not a grain of corn or blade of grass should have been wasted or lost or misapplied."
Finally, he remarks on how the army's need for men was undermining the basic health of the economy. "Our production of provisions this year will be greatly lessened from another cause. That is the general derangement of labor and the management of large planting interests as well as small under the last military act....Many plantations have been virtually abandoned to the negroes without any suitable superintendent..." Unwilling to extract taxes, the Richmond government resorted to a system of "tythes" that proved completely inadequate. The congress then passed an Impressment Bill, giving the government power to seize needed supplies and pay for them at prices set by commissioners. This was a long way indeed from the states rights paradise secessionists thought they were getting in 1861. By 1865 the government was even ready to free its slaves in order to put black troops into the army.