(Thomas) Howell Cobb was born on September 7, 1815 and died on October 9, 1868. He was a southern Democrat, and a five-term member of the US House of Representatives and a Speaker of the House from 1849 to 1851. He was Governor or Georgia from 1851 to 1853, and Secretary of the Treasury under President James Buchanan from 1857 to 1860.
Howell Cobb is best known for being one of the founders of the Confederate States of America. He served as Speaker of the Provisional Confederate Congress, when delegates of the secessionist states created the Confederacy.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Cobb presided over the panic of 1857. The ongoing crisis over slavery in the territories presented the fledgling nation with a more serious threat to its future, however. Throughout his political life, Cobb had argued that only the national Democratic Party could make the compromises necessary to maintain the Union. By 1860, regional pressures over slavery had gotten so intense that the Democratic Party ceased to be national, and divided into northern and southern organizations.
This split, combined with the rise of the Republican Party in the northern US, left control of the federal government in the hands of those who were against slavery. When Abraham Lincoln was elected to the presidency, Cobb gave up his faith in the Union and argued persuasively for Georgia’s secession.
After the secession, Cobb was president of the Provisional Confederate Congress, and received some consideration for the Confederate presidency. After his term, he entered the Confederate army as a colonel and rose to the rank of major general. He saw much service and eventually surrendered in Macon, GA on April 20, 1865.
Cobb did not make public remarks on Reconstruction policy in return for a presidential pardon, which came three years after the end of the war. Upon his pardon, he promptly renounced the reconstruction, and died of a heart attack in 1868.