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    Description

    Vice President of the Confederacy Alexander Stephens' Personal Wheelchair. This 96 pound, shrill voiced man was once dubbed "The Strongest Man in the South" due to his intelligence and prominence. Coming from humble, impoverished origins, Stephens raised himself up and became a wealthy Southern lawyer with all the outward displays of wealth which were characteristic of Southern opulence; land and....slaves. While Stephens was an advocate of slavery, even being quoted as saying that inferring that the Constitution held that all races were equal was fundamentally wrong. He said: "Our new [Confederate] government is founded...upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition."

    Despite these strong views which he expressed vocally in his famous "Cornerstone Speech" given on March 21, 1861, in Georgia, Stephens opposed secession and even after he relented and voted for it along with his other Georgia companions, he was still a member of a more moderate Confederate group, who favored a peaceful resolution and end to the war all together. Stephens was an avid state's rights supporter and the methods and actions of Jefferson Davis soon drove the President and Vice President of the Confederacy into political opposition. Despite his position against his own Commander in chief and government, he was still imprisoned for five months after the Civil War, but was never barred from federal office unlike Jefferson Davis.

    The lot offered here is a tangible reminder of the Confederacy, and the fact that some of our most powerful leaders were often not in the strongest of bodies. There was once a newspaper reporter who described Stephens as such: "A little way up the aisle sits a queer-looking bundle. An immense cloak, a high hat, and peering somewhat out of the middle athin, pale, sad little face. This brain and eyes enrolled in countless thicknesses of flannel and broadcloth wrappings belong to Hon. Alexander H. Stephens, of Georgia. How anything so small and sick and sorrowful could get here all the way from Georgia is a wonder. If he were to draw his last breath any instant you would not be surprised. If he were laid out in his coffin he need not look any different, only then the fires would have gone out in those burning eyes. Set, as they are, in the wax-white face, they seem to burn and blaze. Still, on the countenance is stamped that pathos of long-continued suffering which goes to the heart. That he is here at all to offer the counsels of moderation and patriotism proves how invincible is the soul that dwells in his shrunken and aching frame." (Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War, Wilson,Edmund, W.W. Norton & Company, page 437.)

    One can almost imagine this small-framed gentleman seated in this very chair, discussing the Reconstruction with other senators and representatives, his small but enduring voice trying to make sense out of a conflict he was never quite sure should have occurred at all. The wooden, worn wheels no doubt made their way many times over the wooden floors of Georgia's governor's mansion, the senate floor, and even perhaps the White House. The leather seat and backing are somewhat worn from use and age, but the chair is fully intact, right down the original square headed nails which serve as pins to hold the wagon-wheel like rounds in place! Few true relics of the Confederate government endure, aside from a plethora of Davis ephemera, Stephens sometimes gets lost in the mix of Davis and Gettysburg, yet he was no less influential. Some even call him the "Little Moses", so here we offered his "reed basket" as it were, a true museum quality piece. Measures 27.5" wide, 35" tall, wheels are 27" diameter. Provenance: Deaccessioned by the Atlanta Museum.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    June, 2006
    7th Wednesday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 23
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 937

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