Joseph E. Brown
|Joseph Emerson Brown|
|United States Senator
May 26, 1880 – March 4, 1891
|Preceded by||John B. Gordon|
|Succeeded by||John B. Gordon|
|Governor of Georgia|
November 6, 1857 – June 27, 1865
|Preceded by||Herschel Johnson|
|Succeeded by||James Johnson|
April 15, 1821|
Pickens, South Carolina
|Died||November 30, 1894
|Political party||Republican, Democratic|
Joseph Emerson Brown (April 15, 1821 – November 30, 1894), often referred to as Joe Brown, was the 42nd Governor of Georgia from 1857 to 1865, and a U.S. Senator from 1880 to 1891. Governor Brown was a leading secessionist in 1861, taking his state out of the Union and into the Confederacy. A former Whig, and a firm believer in state's rights, he defied the national government's wartime policies. He resisted the Confederate military draft, and tried to keep as many soldiers at home as possible (to fight off invaders, he said). He denounced Confederate President Jefferson Davis as an incipient tyrant. Brown challenged Confederate impressment of animals, goods, and slaves. Several other governors followed his lead.
Brown was born in Pickens County, South Carolina. At a young age he moved with his family to Union County, Georgia. In 1840, he decided to leave the farm and seek an education. Brown, with the help of his younger brother James and his father's plow horse, drove a yoke of oxen on a 125-mile trek to an academy near Anderson, South Carolina, where the impoverished Brown exchanged the oxen for eight months' board and lodging. In 1844, Brown moved to Canton, Georgia, where he served as head-master of the academy at Canton. He went on to study law, and in 1847, he opened a law office in Canton. Brown was elected to the Georgia state senate in 1849 and soon became a leader of the Democratic Party in Georgia. He was elected state circuit court judge in 1855 and governor in 1857. As governor, he diverted state railroad profits to Georgia's public schools. He became a strong supporter of secession from the United States after Lincoln's election and South Carolina's secession in 1860.
Once the Confederate States of America was established, Brown spoke out against expansion of the Confederate central government's powers. He denounced Davis in particular. Brown even tried to stop Colonel Francis Bartow from taking Georgia troops out of the state to the First Battle of Bull Run. He objected strenuously to military conscription by the Confederacy. After the loss of Atlanta, Brown withdrew the state's militia from the Confederate forces to harvest crops for the state and the army. When Union troops under Sherman overran much of Georgia in 1864, Brown called for an end to the war.
After the war, Brown was briefly held as a political prisoner in Washington, D.C. He was chief justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia from 1865 to 1870, when he resigned to become president of the Western and Atlantic Railroad. He supported President Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction policy, even becoming a Republican "scalawag" for a time. After Reconstruction, he became a Democrat again and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880 by the state legislature, according to the laws of the time. Soon after his election to the Senate, Brown became the first Georgia official to support public education for all children—not a popular position at the time. He was re-elected in 1885, but retired in 1891 due to poor health.
While Brown's political supporters claimed that he "came to Atlanta on foot with less than a dollar in his pocket after the war and...made himself all that he is by honest and laborious methods", most of his enterprises stemmed from his political connections. He amassed a fortune by using convicts leased from state, county and local government in his coal mining operations in Dade County. His exploitation of leased labor began in 1874 and continued until his death in 1894, a period that coincided with "the high tide of the convict lease system in Georgia. In 1880 Brown, whose fortune could be estimated conservatively at one million dollars, netted $98,000 from the Dade Coal Company. By 1886, Dade Coal was a parent company, owning Walker Iron and Coal, Rising Fawn Iron, Chattanooga Iron, and Rogers Railroad and Ore Banks and leasing Castle Rock Coal Company. An 1889 reorganization resulted in the formation of the Georgia Mining, Manufacturing and Investment Company. This rested largely on a foundation of convict labor.” 
"The most powerful politician in Georgia from the 1860s until his death, Brown, still contemptuous of the Emancipation Proclamation, filled his mines with scores of black men forced into the shafts against their will. A legislative committee visiting the sites the same year [Joel] Hurt bought them said the prisoners were 'in the very worst condition...actually being starved and have not sufficient clothing...treated with great cruelty.' Of particular note to the visiting officials was that the mine claimed to have replaced whipping with the water cure torture--in which water was poured into the nostrils and lungs of the prisoners--because it allowed miners to 'go to work right away' after punishment."
He died in 1894 in Atlanta, Georgia. His statue, in which he is accompanied by his wife, is on the capitol grounds, and his towering tombstone is in Oakland Cemetery. Neither monument mentions his connection with the exploitation of coerced and abused prisoners.
His son, Joseph Mackey Brown, would also become governor of Georgia (twice).
Joseph E. Brown Hall on the campus of the University of Georgia in Athens is named in his honor. The building was completed in 1932.
See also 
- William R. Scaife and William Harris Bragg, "Joe Brown's Pets: The Georgia Militia, 1862-1865" (2004)
- McPherson, James (1988). Battle cry of freedom: the american civil war. Penguin. p. 433.
- Franklin M. Garrett, Atlanta and Environs, I:952
- Kenneth M. Stampp, The Era of Reconstruction, 1865-1877, p. 161
- Matthew J. Mancini, “Race, Economics, and the Abandonment of the Convict Lease System,” The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 63, No. 4 [October 1978], p. 342
- Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery By Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, p. 347
- Blackmon, Douglas A. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. New York : Doubleday, 2008. ISBN 978-0385506250
- Hill, Louise Biles. Joseph E. Brown and the Confederacy. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press 1972. ISBN 978-0-8371-5722-1
- Lichtenstein, Alex. Twice the Work of Free Labor: The Political Economy of Convict Labor in the New South. New York: Verso, 1996. ISBN 978-1859840863
- Mancini, Matthew J. One Dies, Get Another: Convict Leasing in the American South, 1866-1928. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1996. ISBN 978-1570030833
- Parks, Joseph Howard. Joseph E. Brown of Georgia. Southern biography series. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press 1977. ISBN 978-0-8071-0189-6
- Roberts, Derrell C. Joseph E. Brown and the politics of Reconstruction. Southern historical publications, no. 16. University: University of Alabama Press 1973. ISBN 978-0-8173-5222-6
- Scaife, William R., and William Harris Bragg. Joe Brown's pets: the Georgia Militia, 1861-1865. Macon, Ga: Mercer University Press 2004. ISBN 978-0-86554-883-1
- Wright, G. Richard and Kenneth H. Wheeler, "New Men in the Old South: Joseph E. Brown and his Associates in Georgia's Etowah Valley," Georgia Historical Quarterly 93:4 (Winter, 2009)
- This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.
- Joseph E. Brown at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Joseph Emerson Brown letters, W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library, The University of Alabama.
Herschel Vespasian Johnson
|Governor of Georgia
Hiram B. Warner
|Chief Justices of the Supreme Court of Georgia
Osborne Augustus Lochrane
|United States Senate|
John B. Gordon
|United States Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: Benjamin H. Hill, Middleton P. Barrow, Alfred H. Colquitt
John B. Gordon