Benjamin Harvey Hill
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|United States Senator
March 4, 1877 – August 16, 1882
|Preceded by||Thomas Norwood|
|Succeeded by||Middleton Barrow|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 9th district
May 5, 1875 – March 4, 1877
|Preceded by||Hiram Bell|
|Succeeded by||Hiram Bell|
|Confederate States Senator
February 18, 1862 – May 10, 1865
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
September 14, 1823|
Hillsboro, Georgia, U.S.
|Died||August 16, 1882
Gurley, Alabama, U.S.
|Political party||Whig (Before 1855)
Constitutional Union (1859–1861)
|Alma mater||University of Georgia|
Hill was born September 14, 1823, in Hillsboro, Georgia, in Jasper County. He was of Welsh and Irish American ancestry. He attended the University of Georgia (UGA) in Athens, Georgia, where he was a member of the Demosthenian Literary Society and graduated in 1844 with first honors. He was admitted to the Georgia bar later in 1844. He married Caroline E. Holt in Athens, in 1845.
Hill was a candidate representing a number of parties, reflecting the volatile politics before the American Civil War and after. He was elected to the state legislature of Georgia in 1851 as a member of the Whig Party. He supported Millard Fillmore running on the Know-Nothing ticket in 1856, and was an elector for that party in the Electoral College. In 1857, he ran for governor of Georgia unsuccessfully against the Democratic nominee Joseph E. Brown. In 1859, he was elected to the state senate as a Unionist. In 1860, he was again an elector, this time for John Bell and the Unionist party.
Hill known as "the peerless orator" for his skill in delivering speech, was the only non-Democratic member of the Georgia secession convention on January 16, 1861, where he spoke publicly against the dissolution of the Union, along with Alexander Stephens, a former opponent. Following Stephens' highly regarded argument based on a conservative reading of the Constitution, Hill struck a more pragmatic tone. His arguments related to the conservative belief that disunion would ultimately lead to the abolition of slavery and the downfall of Southern society. He quoted Henry Ward Beecher, a Northern abolitionist who enthusiastically supported the dissolution of the Union as a means to end slavery, and described the anti-slavery Republican Party as a "disunionist" party, in contrast to the "Union men and Southern men" participating in the convention. Acknowledging the need to respond to the threat of Lincoln's election, Hill argued that his fellow Georgians should continue to resist Lincoln democratically within the bounds of the Constitution. He compared this course to George Washington, "so cool, so brave, and so thoughtful." He argued that the Northern states would eventually follow the British course of rising abolitionist thought, followed by acceptance again of slavery due to economic necessity. But he allowed that the South should prepare for secession and war if it should become necessary.
Ultimately, Hill voted for secession and became a political ally of Jefferson Davis, who was elected as president of the Confederacy. When the Confederate government was formed, Hill transferred to the Confederate Provisional Congress. He was subsequently elected by the Georgia legislature to the Confederate States Senate, a term which he held throughout its existence.
Unlike many Confederate politicians, Hill had a long and distinguished career as a "reconstructed" Southerner and U.S. politician. He ultimately became a Democrat after the Civil War ended. He spoke out passionately against Radical Reconstruction and in the summer of 1867 made a series of speeches in Atlanta, the most famous being the Davis House speech of July 16, 1867, denouncing the Reconstruction Acts of 1867. His courage and eloquence enhanced his regional fame and won him national recognition.
In 1875 he was elected to the U. S. House of Representatives, serving from May 5, 1875 - March 3, 1877. He quickly won a reputation as a spokesman for the South. He was later elected by the Georgia legislature to the U.S. Senate on January 26, 1877, as Reconstruction was ending. He served in the U.S. Senate from March 4, 1877, until his death on August 16, 1882. His obituary was featured on the front page of the Atlanta Constitution, on August 17, 1882.
He is buried in historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.
There is a lifesize statue of Hill looking down from atop a similarly sized plinth inside the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as a larger than life portrait in the Capitol Rotunda. Ben Hill County, Georgia is named in his honor.
- List of signers of the Georgia Ordinance of Secession
- Confederate States of America, causes of secession, "Died of states' rights"
- List of American Civil War generals
- Senator Benjamin H. Hill of Georgia: his life, speeches and writings page 9
- Candler, Allen Daniel (1909). The Confederate records of the State of Georgia, Volume 1. Atlanta, GA: C. P. Byrd publishing. ISBN 978-1147068887. Retrieved July 22, 2013
- Freehling, William W., and Craig M. Simpson, Secession Debated: Georgia's Showdown in 1860, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
-  Ferguson, Stuart, "The Zealotry of the Convert: Slavery's Firebrand Defender," book review of Eric H. Walther's William Lowndes Yancey and the Coming of the Civil War, in The Wall Street Journal, 8 July 2006; page P9; accessed on July 14, 2006
- Benjamin Harvey Hill at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress Retrieved on 2009-03-25
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|Confederate States Senate|
|New constituency||Confederate States Senator (Class 3) from Georgia
Served alongside: John Lewis, Herschel Johnson
|United States House of Representatives|
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 9th congressional district
|United States Senate|
|United States Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
Served alongside: John Gordon, Joseph Brown