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

Mr. President

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 6, 2011

Jefferson Davis

November 6, 1861:  Jefferson Davis is elected as President of the Confederate States of America. When states began to secede from the Union, they set up an alliance of sorts. Although one of their main concerns was individual state’s rights, they did try to coalesce into a one unit. Some states were individual enough that they never did put troops under the control of their central government and this may have helped the Confederacy’s defeat. Eleven states had seceded by May 20, 1961. The US Civil War had already begun by then, starting on April 12, 1861.

Jeff Davis, like the President of the United States of the time, was born in Kentucky. However, the Davis family moved to Louisiana and then Mississippi when Jeff was still a toddler. There, they were plantation owners and were able to send their children to a number of schools. Jeff’s education was completed at the United States Military Academy (West Point) in 1828 when he graduated 23rd out of a class of 33.

Davis had a varied military career and served under Zachary Taylor. He left the military and entered political life serving as a Senator for Mississippi and under President Franklin Pierce was the Secretary of War.  After the next election, he returned to the Senate. As tension between the states grew and as secession began, Davis put himself under the services of the Governor of Mississippi. Davis was made General of the Army of Mississippi.

As more states seceded, a constitutional convention was held and Davis, along with several others, was proposed for the office of provisional president. Davis was unanimously chosen because he was both well-known and his former Washington, D.C. experience including a Cabinet position was seen as helpful. An election was held to make this a permanent position. The capital of the Confederacy was located in Richmond, Virginia. As the Civil War ended, Davis was arrested and held in prison for two years as a traitor. Even after his release, charges were never dropped, but the case was not prosecuted. He died in 1889 in New Orleans at the age of 81.

“If the Confederacy falls, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a theory.”

“I will admit no bond that holds me to a party a day longer than I agree to its principles. When men meet together to confer, and ascertain whether or not they do agree, and find that they differ – radically, essentially, irreconcilably differ – what belongs to an honorable position except to part? They cannot consistently act together any longer.”

“Tradition usually rests upon something which men did know; history is often the manufacture of the mere liar.”

“All we ask is to be let alone.” – all from Jefferson Davis

Also on this day:
The Most Reverend John Carroll – In 1789, the US gets her first Roman Catholic Bishop.
Hurricane – In 1935, the Hawker Hurricane was first flown.

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