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Howell Cobb

COBB, Howell, statesman, born in Cherry Hill, Jefferson County, Georgia, 7 September, 1815; died in New York City, 9 October, 1868. He was graduated at Franklin College, Athens, in 1834, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1836, and chosen an elector on the Van Buren ticket the same year. He was appointed by the legislature solicitor-general of the western circuit of Georgia in 1837, held the office for three years, and during that period obtained an extensive practice. He entered congress as a democrat in 1843: and served by successive re-elections till 1851, distinguishing himself by his familiarity with the rules, his skill as a debater, his vehement professions of love for the Union, and his equally earnest advocacy of state rights. His imperiousness, and his bold championship of slavery, made him the leader of the southern party in the house in 1847, and he was elected speaker in 1849, after a long and close contest. He demanded the extension of slavery into California and New Mexico by Federal authority, and advocated the compromise measures of 1850. An issue being taken on this latter question by the southern rights extremists of Georgia, he was nominated for governor by the Union party in 1851, and after a violent contest was elected by a large majority. At the expiration of his term of service as governor, in 1853, he resumed the practice of law, but still took an active part in politics. He was again elected to congress in 1855, advocated Mr. Buchanan's election throughout the northern states in 1856, and in 1857 became his secretary of the treasury. He found the treasury full, and the bonds representing the national debt at a premium of sixteen to eighteen per cent. He used the surplus funds in the treasury in purchasing this indebtedness at this high premium, but the approach of the civil war so affected the national credit that he was compelled to attempt to borrow at an exorbitant discount the money necessary to defray the ordinary expenses of the government. On 10 December, 1860, he resigned, giving as his reason that the state of Georgia (then about to secede) required his services. On his return to Georgia, he addressed the people of the state, urging forward the secession movement. He was one of the delegates from Georgia to the provisional congress which prepared and adopted the constitution of the Confederacy, and presided over each of its four sessions. Of the first Confederate congress, that assembled 18 February, 1862, Mr. Cobb was not a member; but, having done his utmost to organize the opposition, he was withdrawn from civil office, not being a favorite with Jefferson Davis. On the demand of the Georgian members, the Confederate congress appointed him brigadier-general, and subsequently promoted him to a major generalship, but he took little part in military movements. At the close of the war he strongly opposed the reconstruction measures as calculated to retard the restoration of the south to the Union, keep back its prosperity, and destroy the Negro race. See a memorial volume edited by Samuel Boykin (Philadelphia, 1869).--His brother, Thomas R. R., lawyer, born in Cherry Hill, Jefferson County, Georgia, 10 April, 1823; killed at the battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia, 13 December, 1862, was graduated at the University of Georgia in 1841, standing at the head of his class, was admitted to the bar, and was reporter of the Supreme Court of Georgia from 1849 till 1857, when he resigned. He was a trustee of the University, was active in the cause of education in his native state, and had a high reputation and large practice as a lawyer. He was an able and eloquent member of the Confederate congress, in which he served as chairman of the committee on military affairs, and afterward became a general in the Confederate army. Mr. Cobb was a Presbyterian, took much interest in religious and educational matters, and gave largely to the Lucy Cobb Institute. He published " Digest of the Laws of Georgia" (1851); "Inquiry into the Law of Negro Slavery in the United States" (Philadelphia, 1858); "Historical Sketch of Slavery, from the Earliest Periods" (Philadelphia, 1859); and several essays in behalf of a state system of education.

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