Political flip-flopping is nothing new. George Washington Bonaparte Towns began his political life as a staunch Unionist.
Born in 1801 in Wilkes County, Towns’ career followed a familiar path in the antebellum South: lawyer, militia officer, and representative in the Georgia House and Senate, where he opposed the states rights politics of South Carolinian John C. Calhoun, who believed states could nullify laws they didn’t like. Elected to Congress during Georgia’s showdown with the Cherokee nation, however, he changed his tune. By his election as Georgia governor in 1846, he was a full-fledged states-rights opponent of abolitionists, whom he considered fanatics bent on subjugating the white South.
Towns opposed the Compromise of 1850 after it banned slavery in California and called a special Georgia convention to consider secession, where moderates Howell Cobb, Alexander Stephens, and Robert Toombs outmaneuvered him and averted a crisis.
Towns County honors the uncompromising governor who died on July 15, 1854, Today in Georgia History.