Little Bits of History

January 21

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 21, 2017

1861: Jefferson Davis resigns from the US Senate. Davis was an American politician born in Mississippi in 1807 or 1808, giving both years as his birth date, the youngest of ten children. His ancestors had emigrated from Wales in the early 1700s and arrived in the colonies before the family finally settled in the Georgia colony. Since international slave trade ended in 1808, the family used domestic slaves to work their acreage. When the father of the family died, Joseph, the eldest brother and 24 years older than Jefferson, took over his upbringing and encouraged his further education. Joseph got his baby brother into West Point in 1824 and he graduated 23rd out of a class of 33 in 1828.

Davis married Sarah Taylor, daughter of the commander of his first assignment and future President of the US Zachary Taylor. In order to do so, he had to resign from his Army career. They went to Louisiana in the hopes of beginning a life together and instead, they both caught malaria or yellow fever. Sarah died just three months after they were married. By 1840, plantation and slave owner Davis entered politics when he was surprisingly chosen as a delegate to the state’s convention in Jackson, Mississippi. He entered his first political race and lost but became an exemplary Democrat, campaigning for James Polk in 1844. That same year he met the future second Mrs. Davis when he was 35 and she was 17. They married in 1845. Later that year, he was elected to the House of Representatives.

In 1846, he resigned his seat in the House in order to fight in the Mexican-American War. He rose to the rank of colonel and after successfully leading his troops, President Polk offered him a commission as brigadier general, but Davis declines, pointing out that militia appointments were to come at the state level. After the war, Governor Brown of Mississippi offered the recently vacated Senate seat of Jesse Speight to Davis. He was then elected to the Senate and did a remarkable job. In 1853, President Franklin Pierce made Davis Secretary of War. Throughout the country, the question of slavery escalated. After the Dred Scott case was decided, Davis once again returned to the Senate.

Davis spent the summer of 1858 in Maine and wrote anti-secessionist works and gave a speech on July 4, pleading for unity. He spoke with Southerners about holding fast. But the 1860 presidential elections brought Abraham Lincoln to the Presidency. South Carolina adopted an ordinance of secession on December 20, 1860. Mississippi followed on January 9, 1861. With a heavy heart, Jefferson Davis tendered his resignation on what he called “the saddest day of my life” as he delivered his farewell address and then returned to Mississippi. He would go on to be the one and only President of the Confederate States.

Neither current events nor history show that the majority rule, or ever did rule.

I worked night and day for twelve years to prevent the war, but I could not. The North was mad and blind, would not let us govern ourselves, and so the war came.

If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.

Everyone must understand that, whatever be the evil of slavery, it is not increased by its diffusion. Every one familiar with it knows that it is in proportion to its sparseness that it becomes less objectionable. Wherever there is an immediate connation between the master and slave, whatever there is of harshness in the system is diminished. – all from Jefferson Davis

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