Governor Albert Gallatin Brown was Mississippi’s youngest and perhaps its most popular antebellum governor. His election in 1843 ended the bitter division among the state’s Democrats over the issue of whether the state should honor the bonds from two failed banks, Planters Bank and Union Bank, and reunited the party. Following his re-election in 1845 by a large majority and the completion of his second term, Governor Brown was elected to the U. S. Congress, where he served until his appointment to the U. S. Senate in 1854.
Brown was born in Chester District, South Carolina, on May 31, 1813, and migrated to Copiah County 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, Brown was elected to the U. S. Congress when he was only twenty-four years old; five years later he was elected circuit judge as a Democrat in a predominantly Whig district. In 1843, at age thirty-one, he was elected governor.
Governor Brown was a strong advocate of public education and tried, unsuccessfully, to establish a statewide system of free schools. He was more successful, however, in his effort to establish a state university. In 1844, Governor Brown signed the charter establishing the University of Mississippi at Oxford. The university opened in 1848.
After he was elected to the United States Senate, Brown became one of the most ardent defenders of states’ rights and was one of the South’s first advocates of secession. After Mississippi seceded and joined the Confederate States of America, Brown resigned his U. S. Senate seat and organized a military company known as Brown’s Rifles. Brown was stationed briefly in Virginia before his election as one of Mississippi’s two members in the Confederate Senate where he served until the end of the Civil War.
After the fall of Vicksburg on July 4, 1863, Brown and other leaders, realizing that the South would not win the Civil War, advocated an immediate settlement and a negotiated peace treaty. Neither Mississippi nor the Confederate States of America would accept that suggestion, and the war continued for two more years. After the war was finally over, Brown advised the people of Mississippi to accept the consequences of military defeat and the emancipation of the state’s former enslaved peoples.
Governor Brown retired from public life after the Civil War and spent his last years practicing law. He died at his home in Terry, Mississippi, near Jackson, on June 12, 1880.
David Sansing, Ph.D., is history professor emeritus, University of Mississippi.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress (1950), 897.
Mississippi Official and Statistical Register (1912), 60.
Ranck, James B. Albert Gallatin Brown: Radical Southern Nationalist. New York, 1837.
Rowland, Dunbar. Mississippi Comprising Sketches in Cyclopedic Form I. 310-319.