Browsing "Southern Unionists"

Striving to Maintain the Union

The departure of Southern States from the fraternal Union came as no surprise to many, and those like Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia forecast disunion to President James Buchanan if he would not end his warfare with Stephen Douglas. Noting the refusal of Republicans to compromise and not wanting to return to Congress to witness the death of the Union, Stephens returned Georgia to await the unfolding events.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Striving to Maintain the Union

“The [Cincinnati] speech was intended as a solemn warning not only to his constituents and people of the South, but the whole country, that in his opinion the peace and prosperity of the country depended upon a strict and inflexible adherence to the principles of the adjustment measures of 1850 upon the subject of slavery, as carried out and expressed in the Democratic Baltimore platform of 1852, with the additional plank inserted in the Cincinnati Convention of 1856.

It was well known then that Mr. Stephens had serious apprehensions that those principles would be departed from in the next Democratic Convention to be held in Charleston the following year. It was also known that he did not finally determine to withdraw from Congress until after a personal interview with Mr. [James] Buchanan, in which he had urged the President to cease his warfare against Mr. [Stephen] Douglas, and the support of the paper known as his organ in Washington in insisting upon the insertion of a new plank in the next Convention, asserting it to be the duty of Congress to pass acts to protect slavery in the Territories, and not to leave that subject, as the Cincinnati platform had done, with the people of the Territories.

Mr. Stephens most urgently urged the President that if he continued to pursue the line of policy he was then following there would be a burst-up at Charleston, and with that burst-up of the Union – temporary or permanent – “as certainly as he would break his neck if he sprang from that window” [of the reception-room at the White house, in which they were conversing] “or as the sun would set that night.”

Mr. Buchanan seemed surprised at this opinion, but was unshaken in his determination to adhere to the policy he was then following. Mr. Stephens, in taking leave, told the President that his object in seeking the interview was to know if his purpose was as stated, and if that was so, his own intention was, not to be allowed to return to the next Congress.

He had spent sixteen years of life in striving to maintain the Union upon the principles of the Constitution; this he thought could be done for many years to come upon the principles set forth in the Cincinnati platform. The Government administered on these principles he thought the best in the world; but if it was departed from, he saw nothing but ruin ahead. He did not wish to be in at the death; but if disunion should come in consequence of this departure, he should go with the people of his own State.

Another fact connected with the retirement of Mr. Stephens from Congress may be noted here. When leaving Washington, with a number of other Southern members, on the beautiful morning of the 5th of March, 1859, he stood at the stern of the boat for some minutes, gazing back at the Capitol, when someone jocularly said, “I suppose you are thinking of coming back to those halls as a Senator.” (It was known that he had announced his intention not to return as a Representative.)

Mr. Stephens replied, with some emotion, “No; I never expect to see Washington again, unless I am brought here as a prisoner of war.” This was literally fulfilled in the latter part of October 1865, when he passed through Washington on his way to his home as a paroled prisoner from Fort Warren.”

(Life of Alexander H. Stephens, R.M. Johnston & W.H. Brown, J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1883, excerpts, pp. 347-348)

 

 

Sumner’s Rendezvous With a Gutta-Percha

After South Carolina Congressman Preston S. Brooks administered a lesson to Charles Sumner, senator from the slave-trading State of Massachusetts, Brooks received new canes from all over the South. The canes were accompanied by emphatic suggestions that he promptly deliver additional beatings on Sumner for the insults toward his uncle and distinguished Senator Andrew P. Butler. Sumner feigned injury to attract sympathy from abolitionist newspapers.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Sumner’s Rendezvous With a Gutta-Percha

“From the moment he took his seat in the Senate, Sumner’s conscience was always on parade. [And] according to Sumner, the Constitution did not sanction slavery, and since slavery was a monstrous evil it should be eliminated at once.

Freedom was national whereas slavery was only sectional.  In the official view of the South, which incidentally coincided with that of the Garrisonians, the founding fathers had expressly guaranteed slavery along with other forms of personal property.  Far from being a national evil, it was a national benefit, to the Negro as much as to the white man.

Sumner seized upon the controversy over Kansas, whether the territory was to come into the Union as a free or as a slave State, to pronounce what he called “the most thoroughgoing philippic ever uttered in a legislative body.”  It was an elaborate speech and it took five hours to deliver.

For those who expected an accurate presentation of the facts about Kansas it was a disappointment, but Sumner’s conscience was never concerned with facts unless the facts bore on the depravity of slaveholders. Sumner’s conscience directed him to pour more oil on the fire rather than water.

He began by assuming the truth of every charge made against the slave power in Kansas, and ignoring all the evidence on the other side. Major John Sedgewick, who was stationed in Kansas at the time . . . thought that most of the atrocities had been committed by the [Northern] Free Soil party, but any such evidence, even if it had come his way, Sumner would have brushed aside as the ravings of a lunatic.  He had prepared his speech with infinite pains, committed it to memory, practiced it before the glass, and nothing would induce him to alter it.

The crime against Kansas was nothing less than “the rape of virgin territory compelling it to the hateful embrace of slavery.” The criminal (slave power) has “an audacity beyond that of Verres, a subtlety beyond that of Machiavelli, a meanness beyond that of Bacon, and an ability beyond that of Hastings.”

The long string of erudite insults reached their climax in an attack upon the much beloved Senator Butler of South Carolina who, said Sumner, “has chosen a mistress to whom he has made his vows and who, although ugly to others, is always lovely to him; although polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight — I mean the harlot, Slavery.”

That Sumner honestly thought he was serving the cause of freedom by such language is hard to believe. Senator Cass of Michigan, a devoted Union man and not a slaveholder, delivered the official rebuke: “Such a speech — the most un-American and un-patriotic that ever grated on the ears of the members of this high body — I hope never to hear again here or elsewhere.”

While Senators were shaking their heads . . . Sumner was suddenly transfigured into a national hero, a martyr for freedom. The man responsible for this . . . was a Southerner, Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina, a nephew and a devoted admirer of Senator Butler.

[And] Brooks had made up his mind that the only suitable answer to Sumner was severe corporeal punishment. Accordingly, while Sumner was sitting at his desk after the Senate had adjourned, Brooks strode up to him and . . . struck him over the head with a gutta-percha cane.

How severely Sumner was injured has always been a matter of dispute, but by the time Brooks had finished his chastisement Sumner was lying on the floor unconscious. Southerners accused Sumner of shamming.

The doctor who attended him took four stitches in his scalp and declared him ready to return to duty after a few days of rest. [Sumner] complained of perpetual headache and nervous prostration, but Southerners pointed out that during a trip to Europe to recover his health he indulged in a continuous round of social entertainments that might well have reduced any traveler to a state of exhaustion.”

(No Compromise!, Arnold Whitridge, Farrar, Straus and Cudahy, 1960, pp. 125-127)

A Palpable Violation of the Constitution

Clearly defined in the United States Constitution is this: “Treason against the United States, shall consist only of Levying war against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort . . .” Note the word “them” – not the United States collectively, and that John Brown was convicted of treason against Virginia.  Though Lincoln’s predecessor did not agree with secession, he saw no constitutional authority to coerce a State, and knew that to wage war against a State was treason. Lincoln had no such inhibitions. The following is excerpted from a letter from Jefferson Davis to Mississippi newspaper publisher and war veteran J.L. Power, dated June 19, 1884.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

A Palpable Violation of the Constitution

“Dear Sir,

[From] the statement in regard to Fort Sumter, a child might suppose that a foreign army had attacked the United States – certainly could not learn that the State of South Carolina was merely seeking possession of a fort on her own soil, and claiming that her grant of the site had become void.

The tyrant’s plea of necessity to excuse despotic usurpation is offered for the unconstitutional act of emancipation, and the poor resort to prejudice is invoked in the use of the epithet “rebellion” – a word inapplicable to States generally, and most especially so to the sovereign members of a voluntary union. But, alas for their ancient prestige, [the States] have even lost the plural reference they had in the Constitution . . . Such language would be appropriate to an imperial Government, which in absorbing territories required the subject inhabitants to swear allegiance to it.

Ignorance and artifice have combined so to misrepresent the matter of official oaths in the United States that it may be well to give the question more than a passing notice. When the “sovereign, independent States of America,” formed a constitutional compact of union it was provided in the sixth article thereof that the officers “of the United States and of the several States shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution . . .”

That was the oath. The obligation was to support the Constitution. It created no new obligation, for the citizen already owed allegiance to his respective State, and through her to the Union of which she was a member.

The conclusion is unavoidable that those who did not support, but did not violate the Constitution, were they who broke their official oaths.

The General Government had only the powers delegated to it by the States. The power to coerce a State was not given, but emphatically refused.

Therefore, to invade a State, to overthrow its government by force of arms, was a palpable violation of the Constitution, which officers had sworn to support, and thus to levy war against States which the Federal officers claimed to be, notwithstanding their ordinances of secession, still in the Union, was the treason defined in the third section of the third article of the Constitution, the only treason recognized by the fundamental law of the United States.

By all that is revered in the memory of our Revolutionary sires, and sacred in the principles they established, let not the children of the United States be taught that our Federal Government is sovereign; that our sires, after having, by a long and bloody war, won community independence, used the power, not for the end sought, but to transfer their allegiance, and by oath or otherwise bind their posterity to be the subjects of another government, from which they could only free themselves by force of arms.”

Respectfully, Jefferson Davis”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 431-432)

 

For What are They Waging War?

Jefferson Davis referred to Lincoln’s proclamation of emancipation in early 1863 as affording “our whole people the complete and crowning proof of the true nature of the designs of the party which elevated to power the present occupant of the Presidential chair at Washington and which sought to conceal its purpose . . .” Davis, like others familiar with the United States Constitution, saw that only the individual States could emancipate, not the government created by the States. And waging war upon the States was an act of treason under that same Constitution.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

For What are They Waging War?

January 5, 1863

“Friends and Fellow Citizens . . .

I am happy to be welcomed on my return to the Capital of our Confederacy – the last hope, as I believe, for the perpetuation of that system of government which our forefathers founded – the asylum of the oppressed and the home of true representative liberty.

Anticipating the overthrow of that Government which you had inherited, you assumed the right, as you fathers had done before you, to declare yourselves independent, and nobly have you advocated the assertion which you have made. You have shown yourselves in no respect to be degenerate sons of your fathers.

Men who were bound to you by the compact which their fathers and themselves had entered into the secure to you the rights and principles not only guaranteed by the Declaration of Independence, but rights which Virginia wisely and plainly reserved in her recognition of the government in which she took a part, now come to you with their hands steeped in blood, robbing the widow, destroying houses, seizing the grey-haired father, and incarcerating him in prison because he will not be a traitor to the principles of his fathers and the land that gave him birth.

Every crime which could characterize the course of demons has marked the course of the invader. The Northern portion of Virginia has been ruthlessly desolated – the people not only deprived of the means of subsistence, but their household property destroyed, and every indignity which the base imagination of a merciless foe could suggest inflicted, without regard to age, sex or condition.

In like manner their step has been marked in every portion of the Confederacy they have invaded.

They have murdered prisoners of war; they have destroyed the means of subsistence of families, they have plundered the defenceless, and exerted their most malignant ingenuity to bring to the deepest destitution those who only offence is that their husbands and sons are fighting for their homes and their liberties. Every crime conceivable, from the burning of defenceless towns to the stealing of our silver forks, and spoons, has marked their career.

It is in keeping, however, with the character of the people that seeks dominion over you, claim to be your masters, to try to reduce you to subjection – give up to a brutal soldiery your towns to sack, your homes to pillage and incite servile insurrection.

They have come to disturb our social organizations on the plea that it is military necessity. For what are they waging war? They say to preserve the Union.

Can they preserve the Union by destroying the social existence of a portion of the South? Do they hope to reconstruct the Union by striking at everything which is dear to man? BY showing them so utterly disgraced that if the question was proposed to you whether you would combine with hyenas or Yankees, I trust every Virginian would say, give me the hyenas.”

(Jefferson Davis, the Essential Writings, William J. Cooper, Jr., editor, Modern Library, 2003, excerpts, pp. 285-287)

 

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

Jefferson Davis served as both a United States Representative and Senator from Mississippi, Secretary of War, 1853-1857 under President Franklin Pierce, and President of the Confederate States, 1861-1865. He was a staunch Southern Unionist who strived to find peaceful solutions to the sectional controversies that would lead to secession of the Southern States.  The “Know-Nothingism” mentioned below was a Northern nativist political party of the late 1840s and 1850s which opposed the immigration of Irish and German Catholics — Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts and New Yorker Millard Fillmore were leaders of the party.  The following is excerpted from Jefferson Davis’ address of October 2, 1857 at Mississippi City.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Grecian Horses into the Southern Troy

“Colonel Davis rose . . . and referred to various events in the early history of Mississippi . . . that she had never violated the compact of our Union, and unresistingly borne disproportionate burthens for the support of the general government in peace . . . [and] at the first call for soldiers to maintain the honor of the national flag, had, like a Spartan mother, girded the sword upon her sons, who knew well they could never return to the maternal embrace unless they came covered with honorable fame or wrapped in the shroud of death.

[Regarding incessant Northern aggressions borne by the South, were] we to have more compromises to gather further disappointment, and sink still lower from the equality which our Fathers maintained, and transmitted to us? Fraternity and mutual alliance for the interests of each was the motive and purpose for which the Union was formed.

Preparation in the South to maintain her rights in any contingency which the future might and was likely to bring forth, would best serve to strengthen her Northern allies, if they remained true; and would best enable her to dispense with their services, if they should desert.

It was not upon mere party relation that his hopes were founded; it was upon the elevating, purifying power of the doctrine of State rights and strict construction [of the United States Constitution] – the Shibboleth which none but Democrats can pronounce.

In the earlier, and might well be said, in the purer days of the Republic, Mr. Jefferson pronounced the Northern Democracy the neutral allies of the South, and if that alliance was broken there was surely no other on which to rely.

From the foundation of the Government, the party opposed to the Democracy, under its various names and issues had always evinced its tendency to centralization by the latitudinous construction of the powers delegated to the Federal Government.

As examples, he cited the charter of the United States Bank, the enactment of a tariff for protection, a system of internal improvements, a genera distribution of public lands and of public treasure, and last, lowest in tone, and, as its name implied, in intelligence, Know-Nothingism, with its purpose to concede to the Federal Government the power to prescribe the terms on which naturalized citizens should be invested with the right of suffrage in the States.

He said that he considered every departure from strict construction of grants to the Federal Government, as the introduction of another Grecian horse into our Southern Troy, and he invoked every Mississippian to united and vigilant resistance to every such measure.

The South, as a minority section, can alone be secure in her rights by resolutely maintaining the equality and independence of the States, and thus alone could we hope to make our Union perpetual and effective for the great purposes for which it was ordained and established.

He then urged the necessity of home education, of normal schools, and Southern school-books, as the next step after the mother’s pious training in the formation of that character which was essential to progress toward that high destiny to which his anticipation pointed.

If, as was sometimes asserted, Governments contain within themselves the elements of their own destruction, as animate beings have their growth, their maturity to decay; if ours, the last, best hope of civil liberty was, like the many experiments which preceded it, to be engulfed in the sea of time . . . [he hoped] Mississippi would stand conspicuous for all that was virtuous and noble; that through the waves of fanaticism, anarchy and civil strife, her sons would be the Levites who would bear the ark of the Constitution, and when unable to save it from wreck, that in the pile of its sacred timbers their bones would be found mingled.”

(Speech at Mississippi City; The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 6, 1856-1860, L. Crist/M. Dix, editors, LSU Press, 1989, excerpts, pp. 138-139; 153-155)

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

The following is excerpted from a postwar letter written by Clement C. Clay of Alabama, to review the facts leading to the withdrawal of the Southern States in 1861, and Jefferson Davis’ efforts to forestall secession, seek conciliation with Northern leaders, and preserve the Union. It clearly identifies those wanting to preserve the Union, and lays the responsibility for disunion at the feet of Lincoln’s party.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

The Republican’s Stubborn Purpose

“Mr. Davis did not take an active part in planning or hastening secession. I think he only regretfully consented to it, as a political necessity for the preservation of popular and State rights’ which were seriously threatened by the triumph of a sectional party who were pledged to make war on them.

No “plan of secession” or “scheme of revolution” was, to my knowledge, discussed – certainly none matured – at the [Democratic] caucus, 5th of January, 1861 . . . I have never heard that the caucus advised the South “to accumulate munitions of war,” or “to organize and equip an army of one hundred thousand men,” or determined “to hold on as long as possible to the Southern seats [in Congress].”

So far from it, a majority of Southern Senators seemed to think there would be no war; that the dominant party in the North desired separation from the South, and would gladly let their “erring sisters go in peace.” I could multiply proofs of such a disposition.

As to holding on to their seats, no Southern legislature advised it, no Southern Senator who favored secession did so but one, and none others wished to do so, I believe.

The “plan of secession,” if any, and the purpose of secession, unquestionably, originated, not in Washington City, or with the Senators or Representatives of the South, but among the people of the several States, many months before it was attempted. They followed no leaders at Washington or elsewhere, but acted for themselves, with an independence and unanimity unprecedented in any movement of such magnitude.

Before the election of Lincoln, all the Southern States, excepting one or two, had pledged themselves to separate from the Union upon the triumph f a sectional party in the Presidential election, by acts or resolutions of their Legislatures, resolves of both Democratic and Whig State Conventions, and of primary assemblies of the people – in every way in which they could commit themselves to any future act.

Their purpose was proclaimed to the world through the press and telegraph, and criticized in Congress, in the Northern Legislatures, in press and pulpit, and on the hustings, during many months before Congress met in December, 1860.

Over and above all these facts, the reports of the United States Senate show that, prior to the 5th of January 1861, Southern Senators united with Northern Democratic Senators in an effort to effect pacification and prevent secession, and that Jefferson Davis was one of a committee appointed by the Senate to consider and report such a measure; that it failed because the Northern Republicans opposed everything that looked to peace; that Senator [Stephen A.] Douglas arraigned them as trying to precipitate secession, referred to Jefferson Davis as one who sought conciliation, and called upon Republican Senators to tell what they would do, if anything, to restore harmony and prevent disunion. They did not even deign a response.

Thus by their sullen silence, they made confession (without avoidance) of their stubborn purpose to hold up no hand raised to maintain the Union . . .”

(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume One, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, excerpts, pp. 206-209)

Tribute Money to Northern Industry

In 1846 the US Treasury Department recorded that under the then-current tariff that the self-sustaining industry of the country was indirectly taxed “$80,000,000 annually, none of which went into the coffers of the government, but all into the pocket of the protected [Northern] manufacturer.” In addition to paying the vast bulk of the operation of government through tariffs paid, the South complained of the unequal distribution of public expenditures that went northward instead of toward them.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Tribute Money to Northern Industry

“Virginia was the leader in the war of the Revolution, and her sons were the master-spirits of it, both in the field and in the cabinet. For an entire generation after the establishment of the government under the constitution, four of her sons – with an interregnum of only four years – were called, one after the other, to preside, each for a period of eight years, over the affairs of the young Republic and to shape its policy. Under the wise rule of her illustrious sons in the presidential chair, the Republic grew and its citizens flourished and prospered as no people had ever done.

During this time . . . the Northern population discovered that it would be better to sell their slaves to the South than to hold them, whereupon acts of so-called emancipation were passed in the North. [The North] got rid of its slaves, not so much by emancipation or any sympathy for the blacks as by sale, and in consequence to her greed.

About this time [1819] also Missouri – into which the early settlers had carried their slaves – applied for admission into the Union as a State. The North opposed it, on the ground that slavery existed there. The South appealed to the constitution . . . and asked for the clause which gave Congress the power to interfere with the domestic institutions of any State or with any of her affairs . . .

The Union public mind became excited, sectional feelings ran high, and the Union was in danger of being broken up through Northern aggression and Congressional usurpations at that early day. To quiet the storm, a son of Virginia came forward as peace-maker, and carried through Congress . . . “[the] Missouri Compromise.”

That posterity may fairly appreciate the extent of this exaction with the North, with the sacrifice made by the South to satisfy it, maintain the public faith and preserve the Union . . . [embraced] an area of 1,360,000 miles. The sacrifice thus made by the South, for the sake of the Union, will be more fully appreciated when we reflect that under the Constitution [the South] had as much right to go into the territories with their slaves, that men of the North had to carry with them there their apprentices and servants.

[After the War of 1812] . . . Southern statesmen took the lead in the passage of a tariff to encourage and protect [New England] manufacturing industries. [In time], the protection continued, and was so successful that . . . New England began to compete in foreign markets [and] the South said, “Enough, the North has free trade with us; the Atlantic ocean rolls between this country and Europe; the expense of freight and transportation across it, with moderate duties for revenue alone, ought to be protection enough for these Northern industries. Therefore, let us do away with tariffs for protection. They have not . . . turned a wheel in the South; moreover, they have proved a grievous burden for our people.

The example was to this effect: — The Northern farmer clips his hundred bales of wool, and the Southern farmer picks his hundred bales of cotton. So far they are equal, for the government affords to each equal protection in person and property. But the government . . . went further – protected this industry of one section and taxed that of the other. [To ship wool or cotton to the Charleston market] the Northern man is told that he may land his one hundred bales duty free; but the Southern man is required to leave forty of his in the custom house for the privilege of landing the remaining sixty.

It is in vain for the Southerner to protest or to urge, “You make us pay bounties to Northern fishermen under the plea that it is a nursery for seamen. Is not the fetching and carrying of Southern cotton across the sea in Southern ships as much a nursery for seamen as the catching of codfish in Yankee smacks? But instead of allowing us a bounty for this, you exact taxes and require protection of our Northern fellow-citizens at the expense of Southern industry and enterprise.”

(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, excerpts, pp. 236-240)

“Pray Excuse Me,” the Death of President Davis

“Pray Excuse Me,” The Death of President Davis — December 6, 1889

“His constant attendant has been Mrs. Davis, who have never left his bedside since his illness began. In a comfortable home wrapper of gray and black this gentle ministrant was always at the invalid’s side, and if she left for a moment he asked for her, and was fretted or uneasy until she returned.

The lamp of life waned low as the hour of midnight arrived; nor did it flicker into the brightness of consciousness at any time. Eagerly, yet tenderly, the watchers gazed at the face of the dying chieftain. His face, always calm and pale, gained additional pallor, and at a quarter to 1 o’clock of the morning of the 6th day of December death came to the venerable leader..

There was nothing remarkable about the death-bed scene. The departure of the spirit was gentle and utterly painless. There were no dry eyes in the little assembly about the bed, and every heart bled with the anguish which found vent in Mrs. Davis’s sobs and cries.”

The Times-Democrat gave the following account of the closing scene: At 12:45 o’clock this morning Hon. Jefferson Davis, ex-President of the Confederate States, passed away at the residence of Associate Justice Charles E. Fenner. Only once did he waver in his belief that his case showed no improvement, and that was at an early hour yesterday morning, when he playfully remarked to Mr. Payne: “I am afraid that I shall be compelled to agree with the doctors for once, and admit that I am a little better.”

At 7 o’clock Mrs. Davis administered some medicine, but the ex-President declined to receive the whole dose. She urged upon his the necessity of taking the remainder, but putting it aside, with the gentlest of gestures whispered, “Pray, excuse me.” These were his last words.”

The [New Orleans] Daily States said in its editorial:

“Throughout all the South there are lamentations and tears; in every country on the globe where there are lovers of liberty there is mourning; wherever there are men who admire heroic patriotism, dauntless resolution, fortitude, or intellectual power and supremacy, there is sincere sorrowing. The beloved of our land, the unfaltering upholder of constitutional liberty, the typical hero and sage, is no more; the fearless heart that beat with sympathy for all mankind is stilled forever, a great light has gone out – Jefferson Davis is dead!

No one of all the illustrious personages who have adorned the history of the Union, served that union in the field, in the Cabinet, and in the Senate, better than he. But all the enactments of Congress; all the fierce and bitter denunciations of the North; all the vituperations, malice, hatred, and misrepresentations that the press and the leaders of the North have heaped upon Jefferson Davis, and by which for twenty-five years they have sought to brand him “traitor,” have failed of their purpose, and he stands forth today as one of the grandest examples of patriotism and as one of the most indomitable champions of liberty that has ever appeared upon the arena of human affairs.

Jefferson Davis is dead; but the principles for which he struggled, for the vindication of which he devoted his life, for which he suffered defeat, and unto which he clung unto death, still live. The fanatical howlings of the abolitionists, the tumult and thunders of civil war, the fierce mouthings of the organizers of reconstruction, and reconstruction itself, that black and foul disgrace of humanity, are all departed, sunk into silence like a tavern brawl, but the constitutional principles upon which the Confederacy was founded and for which Jefferson Davis spoke and struggled, for which he gave life and fortune, still survive in all their living power; and when they shall have been, if ever, really destroyed, this Republic will be transformed into one of the most oppressive and offensive oligarchies that has ever arisen amongst the civilized nations of the earth.”

The Times-Democrat of the 10th had this editorial:

“If there was ever the shadow of doubt in the minds of the people of the United States of the hold of Jefferson Davis upon the hearts of the Southern people that doubt has been removed. From city and country, from every nook and hamlet, have come expressions of profoundest sorrow over his death; of grief at the passing away of the great Confederate chieftain.

They turned to him as the Mussulman to his Mecca — the shrine at which all true Southern-born should worship. There has never been any division of sentiment as to the greatness of Jefferson Davis. He has always been the hero of his people — their best beloved. From the day that Lee laid down his arms at Appomattox to the hour of Jefferson Davis’s death the Southern people look upon the ex-President of the Confederacy as the embodiment of all that was grand and glorious in the Lost Cause.

Standing alone as a citizen without the power to exercise his citizenship, the last surviving victim of sectional hate and malevolence, he was an exile while on the soil of his native land and in the midst of his own people. Jefferson Davis will go to the grave bathed in a people’s tears.”

(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, excerpts, pp. 473-509)

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Jefferson Davis on the South’s Inalienable Birthright

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)

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

The author below points out that all of Jefferson Davis’ Congressional speeches featured a “strong and outspoken national feeling,” while New England politicians whipped up sectional animosity at every turn. This was seen as well in the war with Mexico as Davis spoke often of the national devotion and heroism of American soldiers in that conflict, though a prominent Northern politician bespoke for the American army, “a welcome with bloody hands to hospitable graves.” Massachusetts refused military honors to Captain George Lincoln, killed at Buena Vista and son of an ex-governor of that State.

Bernhard Thuersam, www.Circa1865.com

 

Jefferson Davis, Ardent Unionist

“On the 29th of December [1845], Mr. Davis spoke in a very earnest and impressive manner upon Native Americanism, which he strongly opposed . . . in opposition to [federal] appropriations for improvement of rivers and harbors; upon the Oregon question, and in favor of a resolution of thanks to General [Zachary] Taylor and his army.

On February 6, 1846, the House [of Representatives] . . . having under consideration the joint resolution of notice to the British Government concerning the abrogation of the Convention . . . respecting the territory of Oregon, [was addressed by Mr. Davis]:

“Sir, why has the south been assailed in this discussion? Has it been with the hope of sowing dissentions between us and our Western friends? Thus far, I think, it has failed. Why the frequent reference to the conduct of the South on the Texas question?

Sir, those who have made reflections on the South as having sustained Texas annexation from sectional views have been of those who opposed that great measure and are most eager for this. The suspicion is but natural in them.

But, sir, let me tell them that this doctrine of political balance between different portions of the Union is not Southern doctrine. We, sir, advocated the annexation of Texas from high national considerations. Nor sir, do we wish to divide the territory of Oregon; we would preserve it for the extension of our Union. It is, as the representative of a high-spirited and patriotic people, that I am called on to resist this war clamor.

[If war with Britain ensues] . . . Mississippi will come. And whether the question be one of Northern or Southern, of Eastern or Western aggression, we will not stop to count the cost, but act as becomes the descendants of those who, in the war of the Revolution, engaged in unequal strife to aid our brethren of the North in redressing their injuries . . .

With many of the officers now serving on the Rio Grande he had enjoyed a personal acquaintance, and hesitated not to say that all which skill, and courage, and patriotism could perform, [and] might be expected from them.

“Those soldiers, to whom so many [in New England] have applied depreciatory epithets, upon whom it has been so often said no reliance could be placed, they too will be found, in every emergency renewing such feats as have recently graced our arms, bearing the American flag to honorable triumphs, or falling beneath its folds, as devotees to our common cause, to die a soldier’s death.”

(The Life of Jefferson Davis, Frank H. Alfriend, National Publishing Co., 1868, excerpts, pp. 38-40; 45-46)