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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A note from Jefferson Davis

After South Carolina seceded from the Union, Mississippi was the next to follow. Jefferson Davis, the senator from Mississippi, was chosen as President of the Confederacy, and wrote to former U. S. President Franklin Pierce about the impending war. (Pierce was from New Hampshire, but was a "doughface" --a Northerner who supported the Confederacy--which ruined his reputation.) Davis had served as Pierce's secretary of war; the men knew each other well and corresponded.

Here is the letter:

Washington D.C. Jany. 20. 1861

My dear friend,

I have often and sadly turned my thoughts to you during the troublous times through which we have been passing and now I come to the hard task of announcing to you that the hour is at hand which closes my connection with the United States, for the independence and Union of which my Father bled and in the service of which I have sought to emulate the example he set for my guidance. Mississippi not as a matter of choice but of necessity has resolved to enter on the trial of secession. Those who have driven her to this alternative threaten to deprive her of the right to require that her government shall rest on the consent of the governed, to substitute foreign force for domestic support, to reduce a state to the condition from which the colony rose. In the attempt to avoid the issue which had been joined by the country, the present Administration has complicated and precipitated the question. Even now if the duty "to preserve the public property" was rationally regarded the probable collision at Charleston would be avoided. Security far better than any which the federal troops can give might be obtained in consideration of the little garrison of Fort Sumpter. If the disavowal of any purpose to coerce So. Ca. be sincere the possession of a work to command the harbor is worse than useless.

When Lincoln comes in he will have but to continue in the path of his predecessor to inaugurate a a civil war and, leave a soi disant democratic administration responsible for the fact. Genl. Cushing was here last week and when we parted it seemed like taking a last leave of a Brother.

I leave immediately for Missi. and know not what may devolve upon me after my return. Civil war has only horror for me, but whatever circumstances demand shall be met as a duty and I trust be so discharged that you will not be ashamed of our former connection or cease to be my friend.

I had hoped this summer to have had an opportunity to see you and Mrs. Pierce and to have shown to you our children. Mrs. Davis was sorely disappointed when we turned Southward without seeing you, I believe she wrote to Mrs. Pierce in explanation of the circumstances which prevented us from executing our cherished plan of a visit to you when we should leave West Point.

Mrs. Davis joins me in kindest remembrance to Mrs. Pierce and the expression of the hope that we may yet have you both at our country home. Do me the favor to write to me often, address Hurricane P.O. Warren County, Missi.

May God bless you is ever the prayer of your friend

Jeffn. Davis


Looking back to people who felt that their actions were necessary and just at the time is always somewhat strange. Lines like "Mississippi not as a matter of choice but of necessity has resolved to enter on the trial of secession. Those who have driven her to this alternative threaten to deprive her of the right to require that her government shall rest on the consent of the governed..." have so much unintended irony that it's hard to look at them objectively. It always makes me wonder what our descendants will say about us.

The plantation pictured here is the Hurricane Plantation that Davis gives as his address. It belonged to his older brother, and a side division of the land called Brierfield was given to Davis.


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