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Stuart, Alexander H. H.

Born: 1807-04-02 Staunton, Virginia

Died: 1891-02-13 Staunton, Virginia

Born into a prominent Virginia family, Alexander H. H. Stuart received degrees from both the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia. He was admitted to the bar in 1828 and began participating in politics in 1832, when he campaigned for Henry Clay. In 1833, he married Frances Cornelia Baldwin, with whom he had nine children. He won election to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1836 and remained there until 1839. He successfully ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, as a Whig, in 1841 and served for one term, during which he was one of only five southerners to support John Quincy Adams's attempted repeal of the gag rule. He served as a Whig elector in 1844 and 1848, returning to politics full-time in 1850 when President Millard Fillmore appointed him secretary of the interior because the previous secretary, Thomas M. T. McKennan, resigned after only two weeks in office. Stuart remained in the cabinet for the duration of Fillmore's presidency and did much to organize the previously scattered U.S. Department of the Interior. By 1856, Stuart was firmly within the Know Nothing camp and became one of the movement's most prominent spokesmen. He held a seat in the Virginia Senate from 1857 to 1861 and chaired the committee that investigated John Brown's Raid. Stuart was a delegate to the Virginia secession convention (where he voted against secession) and one of three Virginians sent to Washington, DC, to meet with Abraham Lincoln during the Fort Sumter crisis. He did not serve in the Confederate military or government but supported the South throughout the Civil War.

Sara B. Bearss, "Stuart, Alexander Hugh Holmes," American National Biography, ed. by John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 21:62-64; Alexander F. Robertson, Alexander Hugh Holmes Stuart, 1807-1891: A Biography (Richmond, VA: William Byrd, 1925).