The following public address by Jefferson Davis before the Mississippi Legislature on March 10, 1884 may have been his last; he admonishes his listeners to teach their children to honor and revere their fathers who died in the cause of political liberty freedom, and the consent of the governed. Davis crossed over the river to rest under the shade of the trees on December 6, 1889.
Bernhard Thuersam www.Circa1865.com
Jefferson Davis on the South’s Inalienable Birthright
“Friends and Brethren of Mississippi:
Reared on the soil of Mississippi, the ambition of my boyhood was to do something which would redound to the honor and welfare of the State. The weight of many years admonishes me that my day for actual services has passed, yet the desire remains undiminished to see the people of Mississippi prosperous and happy, and her fame no unlike the past, but gradually growing wider and brighter as the years roll away.
It has been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon; but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented.
Remembering as I must all which has been suffered, all which has been lost, disappointed hopes and crushed aspirations, yet I deliberately say: If it were to do over again, I would do just as I did in 1861.
No one is the arbiter of his own fate. The people of the Confederate States did more in proportion to their numbers and means than was ever achieved by any in the world’s history. Fate decreed that they should be unsuccessful in the effort to maintain their claim to resume the grants made to the federal government.
Our people have accepted the decree; it therefore behooves them, as they may, to promote the general welfare of the Union, to show the world that that hereafter as heretofore the patriotism of our people is not measured by lines of latitude and longitude, but is as broad as the obligations they have assumed and embraces the whole of our ocean-bound domain.
Let them leave to their children and their children’s children the good example of never swerving from the path of duty, and preferring to return good for evil rather than to cherish the unmanly feeling of revenge.
But never teach your children to desecrate the memory of the dead by admitting that their brothers were wrong in their effort to maintain the sovereignty, freedom and independence which was their inalienable birthright.
Remembering that the coming generations are the children of the heroic mothers whose devotion to our cause in its darkest hour sustained the strong and strengthened the weak, I cannot believe that the cause for which our sacrifices were made can ever be lost, but rather hope that those who now deny the justice of our asserted claims will learn from experience that the fathers [built] wisely and the constitution should be construed according to the commentaries of the men who made it.
It having been previously understood that I would no attempt to do more than return my thanks, which are far deeper than it would be possible for me to express, I will now, Senators and Representatives, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, who have honored my by your attendance, bid you an affectionate, and, it may be, a last farewell.”
(The Davis Memorial Volume; or Our Dead President, Jefferson Davis, and the World’s Tribute to His Memory, J. Wm. Jones, B.F. Johnson & Company, Publishers, 1890, excerpt, pp. 450-451)