Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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HILL, Benjamin Harvey, statesman born in Jasper county, Georgia, 14 September, 1823; died in Atlanta, Georgia, 19 August, 1882. He was graduated at the University of Georgia in 1844 with the first honors, studied law, and within a twelvemonth was admitted to the bar, beginning to practise at La Grange, Georgia He advanced rapidly in his profession, and early took an active part in politics. In 1851 he was elected to the legislature, and from that time was a recognized leader of the Whig party. In 1856 he was nominated an elector for the state at large on the American or Know-Nothing ticket, and in his support of Millard Filmore his reputation as an orator was greatly enhanced. In 1859 Mr. Hill was elected to the state senate as a Unionist. In 1860 his name was on the Bell and Everett electoral ticket. He was a Unionist member of the State secession convention, which met at Milledgeville, 16 January, 1861, and made a speech of great power against the secession ordinance, but afterward, with many other friends of the Union, thinking it best to avoid a division at home, voted for it. He was a member of the Confederate provisional congress of 1861, and shortly afterward was elected to the Confederate senate, in which he continued to serve until the close of the civil war. He was arrested in May, 1865, and confined in Fort Lafayette, New York harbor, but was released on parole in July, and returned to his home. For some years afterward he held no office, but took an active part in politics, denouncing the reconstruction acts of congress, especially in a speech that he delivered at a mass meeting in Atlanta, and that became famous in the state. His "Notes on the Situation," opposing the reconstruction measures, attracted wide attention. Mr. Hill supported Horace Greeley for the presidency in 1872, and was a member of the convention that was held at the Fifth Avenue hotel, New York, by the friends of that gentleman. In 1875 he was elected to fill a vacancy in congress as a Democrat, and by his speech in the debate on the amnesty bill made a great impression. Mr. Hill was re-elected in 1876, and made a speech on 17 January, 1877, in support of the electoral commission bill, insisting that it was wholly constitutional, wise in its provisions, and patriotic in its purpose. Before the close of his term in the house he was elected by the legislature of Georgia to a seat in the United States senate, where he served till his death. In the senate he made some of his finest speeches, among them that in denunciation of Mr. Mahone's coalition with the Republican party. In the midst of his career Mr. Hill's health gave way. In 1878-'9 a slight pimple on the left side of his tongue developed into a cancer, and he was operated upon three times from 21 July, 1881, till 20 March, 1882. For a month before his death his power of articulation was almost gone, and he used a writing-pad to make known his wishes. His funeral in Atlanta was attended by an immense concourse of people, by the state officials, a delegation from both houses of congress, and by the chancellor and faculty of the University of Georgia. Since Mr. Hill's death, a monument has been erected to him in Atlanta; it is a life-size statue of white marble, representing him as looking down from the pedestal on which he stands, and is placed at the junction of two of the finest streets of the city, in full view of his former residence.
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