Albert Gallatin Brown was Mississippi’s youngest and perhaps most popular antebellum governor. Following his reelection in 1845 by a very large majority and the completion of his second term, Brown was elected to the US House of Representatives, where he served until his appointment to the US Senate in 1854.
Brown was born in Chester District, South Carolina, on 31 May 1813 and moved with his family to Copiah County, Mississippi, in 1823. Brown attended Jefferson College and Mississippi College and then read law with Ephraim G. Peyton. After serving two terms in the state legislature, the twenty-four-year-old Brown was elected to Congress. Five years later he was elected circuit judge as a Democrat in a predominantly Whig district. In 1843, when he was thirty-one years of age, he was elected governor.
Brown was a strong advocate of public education and tried and failed to establish a statewide system of free schools. He had more success, however, with his effort to establish a state university. In 1844 Brown signed the charter establishing the University of Mississippi at Oxford, and the school opened four years later.
After his election to the Senate, Brown became one of the most ardent defenders of states’ rights and one of the South’s first advocates of secession. After Abraham Lincoln became president, Brown stated, “The Union is dead and nothing now remains to be done but to bury the rotten carcass.” After Mississippi seceded and joined the Confederate States of America, Brown resigned his US Senate seat and organized a military company, Brown’s Rifles. He was stationed briefly in Virginia before being elected one of Mississippi’s two Confederate senators, and he served until the end of the Civil War.
After the fall of Vicksburg on 4 July 1863, Brown and other leaders who realized that the Confederacy would not win the war advocated an immediate settlement and a negotiated peace treaty. Neither Mississippi nor the Confederate States of America accepted that suggestion. When the war finally ended two years later, Brown advised the people of Mississippi to accept the consequences of military defeat and the emancipation of the former slaves.
Brown retired from public life after the Civil War and spent his last years practicing law. He died at his home in Terry, Hinds County, on 12 June 1880.
- Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950)
- Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912)
- James B. Ranck, Albert Gallatin Brown: Radical Southern Nationalist (1937)
- Dunbar Rowland, Encyclopedia of Mississippi History, vol. 2 (1907)