Discussion Alexander Stephens threatens to arm 750,000 slaves?


Brigadier General
Jan 12, 2016
South Carolina
What can any of you tell me about this incident? I've run across a number of articles discussing this while collecting newspaper stories, but in trying to research the facts behind the newspaper claims, I've found very little of substance.

The Dispatch referred to a letter the New York Tribune had published days before in its July 31 edition, written by Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens. Stephens had sent the letter to the Tribune in the wake of his abortive peace mission in early July 1863. After Chancellorsville and anticipating another Confederate victory as Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia invaded Pennsylvania, Alexander Stephens thought he was uniquely positioned to open peace negotiations with Abraham Lincoln because of their prewar friendship dating from the late 1840s when they had served together in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jefferson Davis, wary of his rogue Vice President, nonetheless gave him authority to cross the lines to discuss prisoner exchanges, although he no doubt knew Stephens would do as he pleased once he got to Washington, D.C. However, the mission proved abortive because after Union victory at Gettysburg and the fall of Vicksburg in the first days of July 1863, Abraham Lincoln saw no reason to treat with his old friend.​
Not to be denied a moment in the spotlight, the restive Vice President of the Confederacy decided to address Lincoln and other Union leaders through the northern press. So on July 16, 1863, he wrote and dispatched a letter north, which appeared in Horace Greeley’s Tribune, a paper which while generally Republican in its beliefs did not hesitate to take independent stands and criticize President Lincoln when its pugnacious editor thought it proper to do so. With Confederate independence off the table as a realistic point to plead in the wake of Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Alexander Stephens decided to make his July 16 letter about a subject of great consternation in the Confederacy in Summer 1863: the recruitment of African Americans into the Union Army, something many white Southerners saw as akin to the federal government fomenting a slave revolt against them. However, rather than simply excoriate the Lincoln administration on this point, Alexander H. Stephens made a threat which would have struck most other Confederates at the time as equally extreme, but which was the harbinger a coming debate in the Confederacy about whether it too should arm the slaves.​
Else he would have to fall back on upon statistics and the grim phraseologies of war, of the 4,000,000 of negroes that appear in the tablets of your census for 1860 are the working hands of both sexes only. That number does not include the superannuated, or the infants. Out of these 4,000,000, at least 750,000 able-bodied fellows, loving and trusting their masters, and ready to follow them into the mouths of your cannon (ah! do not continue to befool yourself of the question of ties), can be enrolled, armed, drilled in three months. They can be officered in every grade by their own masters, those who have seen the most service, and won most honor. They can be segregated, regiment by regiment, with white troops. In all the departments, the quartermasters, the commissariat and the medical, white officers can administer for them. Superior commands in the black regiments can be made the meed of gallant service in the white. In fine, the entire system, as it operates in the Sepoy service in India, and as it has been modified by distinguished British officers at the request of our Government to meet the peculiarities of our people–peculiarities which constitute incalculable advantages, presenting, as they do, love and confidence in place and hate and jealousy and suspicion–can be put in working order at once.

If this is Alexander Stephens, he's writing in third person, and not so much threatening to arm the slaves as saying that whatever the Union tries, the South can do better. So does anyone know anything about this? Can you point me to sources that expand on whether this was Stephens, writing under a pen name to the New York Tribune?