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Benjamin Harvey Hill

Benjamin Harvey Hill, was born at Hillsborough, in Jasper County, Georgia, Sept. 14, 1823. His father, John Hill, was a man of limited means and little education, but of a flawless reputation and possessed of any amount of good common sense. His mother was a Miss Parham, a Christian lady whose example and teachings had a potent influence in forming the honorable characters of her children. Both parents were consistent members of the Methodist Church.

When Benjamin was about ten years old his father moved to Long Lane, Troup County, which was his home until the day of his death. Benjamin grew up on the farm, joining with his brothers in hard labor, and helping his father in the support of the large family, and his only educational advantages were those found in a few months of the country schooling.

When eighteen years old, through an arrangement by which his father contributed one-half of the expense, and his mother and an aunt furnished from their slender savings the other half, Benjamin was sent to the state university. He graduated there, taking first honor, also the honors of his literary society. So keen was his intellect that within a year he was admitted to the bar and began practice at La Grange.

Here, soon after the commencement of his great career, he was wedded to Miss Caroline Holt, of Athens, a young lady belonging to one of Georgia’s old families, of fortune, beauty and accomplishments.

Mr. Hill grew rapidly at the bar and his professional fame soon extended all over the state. He began life as a whig and was elected to the legislature in 1851 on that ticket. When that party dissolved he became a know-nothing, or strictly American, and as such was defeated for congress by Judge Hiram Walker, the democratic candidate. In 1856 he was nominated on the Fillmore ticket as an elector-at-large and stumped the state with great ability. At this time he assumed the leadership of the American party, and became their candidate for governor in 1857, being defeated by Gov. Joseph E. Brown.

In 1859 he was elected to the state senate as a unionist, and in 1860 his name was on the Bell electoral ticket. He was an open Union man, and in the state secession convention at Milledgeville in 1861 strongly opposed the ordinance of withdrawal from the Union, but on account of the threatened division of his people he afterward voted for secession. He was a member of the Confederate provisional congress and Confederate senate, and was regarded the ablest supporter of Mr. Davis’ policy in the senate.

In May, 1865, after Lee's surrender, he was arrested by the United States government and confined in Fort Lafayette, New York, but was soon released on parole.

Returning home he resumed his activity in politics and was vigorous in his opposition to the reconstruction acts of congress, a speech he made at Atlanta attracting wide and marked attention. During this time he published his Notes on the Situation, being a severe arraignment of the constitutional government of the states.

In 1870, after the congressional plan of reconstructing the states was completed, and the constitutional amendments were adopted and incorporated into that instrument, Mr. Hill, believing further resistance useless, advised the people to accept the result. He resumed the practice of law with great success. He supported Horace Greeley for president in 1872 and in 1876 was elected to congress from the ninth district. He supported the electoral commission bill in an eloquent address. His celebrated discussion with Mr. Blaine from Maine was one of the most memorable that has ever occurred in the house of representatives, and gave him a national reputation. In 1877 he was elected to the United States senate, where he served till Aug. 16, 1882, the date of his death. which was caused by cancer.

Source: Memoirs of Georgia, Containing historical accounts of the states civil, military, industrial and professional interests and personal sketches of many of it’s people, Volume I, The Southern Historical Association, Atlanta, Georgia, 1895.

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