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Albert Taylor Bledsoe
Picture of Albert Taylor Bledsoe.jpg
Born (1809-11-09)November 9, 1809
Died December 8, 1877(1877-12-08) (aged 68)
Alexandria, Virginia (another source says Baltimore, Maryland)
Nationality American
Alma mater United States Military Academy
Kenyon College, Ohio
Occupation educator, attorney, author, and clergyman
Political party Whig Party (United States)
Spouse(s) Harriet Coxe (married in 1836)
Parent(s) Moses Owsley Bledsoe and Sophia Childress Taylor

Albert Taylor Bledsoe (November 9, 1809 – December 8, 1877) was an American Episcopal priest, attorney, professor of mathematics, and officer in the Confederate army and was best known as a staunch defender of slavery and, after the South lost the American Civil War, an architect of the Lost Cause. He was the author of Liberty and Slavery (1856), "the most extensive philosophical treatment of slavery ever produced by a Southern academic", which defended slavery laws as ensuring proper societal order.

Early life and education

Bledsoe was born on November 9, 1809, in Frankfort, Kentucky, the oldest of five children of Moses Owsley Bledsoe and Sophia Childress Taylor (who was a relative of President Zachary Taylor). He was a cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point from 1825 to 1830, where he was a fellow cadet of Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee. After serving two years in the United States Army, he studied law and theology at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and received his M.A. and LL.M. In 1836. he married Harriet Coxe of Burlington NJ, and they had seven children, four of whom survived childhood.

His daughter was the author Sophia Bledsoe Herrick.

College professor and mathematician

  • Adjunct Professor of Mathematics and French, Kenyon College, (OH) 1833–1834.
  • Professor of Mathematics, Miami University (OH), 1834–1835.
  • Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, University of Mississippi, 1848–1854.
  • Professor of Mathematics, University of Virginia, 1854–1861.

Bledsoe in his lectures at the University of Virginia would frequently "interlard his demonstration of some difficult problem in differential or integral calculus—for example, the lemniscata of Bernouilli [sic]—with some vigorous remarks in the doctrine of States' rights". His book The Philosophy of Mathematics was one of the earliest American works on mathematics and includes chapters on Descartes, Leibnitz, and Newton. Bledsoe is perhaps best remembered for his treatise An Essay on Liberty and Slavery, which presented an extended proslavery argument. Bledsoe argued that the natural state of humans was in society, not in nature, and that humans in society needed to have restraints on their actions. That is, he argued that liberty was greatest when humans were allowed to exercise only the amount of freedom they were naturally suited to. Some had to be restrained; others were entitled to freedom.


In 1835, Bledsoe became an Episcopal minister and became an assistant to Bishop Smith of Kentucky. He abandoned his clerical career in 1838 because of his opposition to infant baptism. Later in life, he was ordained a Methodist minister in 1871, but he never took charge of a church. He was a strenuous advocate of the doctrine of free will and his views are set forth in his book Examination of Edwards on the Will (1845).


In 1838, Bledsoe moved to Springfield, Illinois, where he was a law partner of Edward D. Baker, and where he practiced law in the same courts as Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. He practiced before the United States Supreme Court in Washington DC from 1840 to 1848.

Confederate official

In 1861, Bledsoe received a commission as a colonel in the Confederate army, and later became Acting Assistant Secretary of War. In 1863 he was sent to London for the purpose of researching various historical problems relating to the North-South conflict, as well as guiding British public opinion in favor of the Confederate cause.

Southern apologist

In 1868 he moved back to the United States and published the Southern Review. He was the "epitome of an unreconstructed Southerner" and published articles defending slavery and secession.


Bledsoe died on December 8, 1877 in Alexandria, Virginia.


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