Let the South mourn for one at whose summons her glorious daughters freely sent forth their husbands, sons and lovers to do battle in the most woeful war of modern times.
In conformity with a request of Mrs. Davis, she was permitted to commune alone and undisturbed with her dead to-day. The body of the soldier and statesman was laid out on a white, draped bier in the parlor, the front room on the right of the main entrance on First street. The bier is covered with white satin, with a fringe of white silk. The body was clad in confederate gray, which in life Mr. Davis habitually wore. It reposed amid a wilderness of flowers. The hands, folded over the breast, ever encased in tan-colored gloves, and the face, which had looked worn and emaciated just after death, had been improved wonderfully by the embalment.
The death of Jefferson Davis occurred at a quarter to one this morning. As the Payne residence, where Mr. Davis died, is remote from the news centres of the city it was nearly an hour later before the fact was known even to belated newspaper men or at the telegraph office. The first news of it was conveyed by a friend of the family who went to the telegraph office to send messages to Mrs. Hayes, of Denver, and Miss Winnie Davis, Paris, France, daughters of the ex-President of the Confederacy. Perhaps less than fifty people knew of it outside the newspaper offices until they had read the morning papers. This morning, soon after midnight, there passed out of this life one of the most notable men of the nineteenth century. Jefferson Davis is dead; let the South mourn.
Let the South mourn for one who represented, more than any other, the cause for which a million of her most chivalrous sons drew their swords and joined battle with the most formidable of adversaries, their own countrymen, for rights and liberties that freemen must ever hold most dear.
Let the South mourn for one around whose name and deeds are crystallized the memory of the holy principles for which a hundred thousand of her sons poured out their blood and gave their lives.
It is with the deepest regret that I announce to the people of the City of New Orleans the departure from this life of Jefferson Davis. He needs no eulogy from me. His life is history, and his memory! is enshrined in the heart of every man, woman and child in the broad South. We all love him, and we all owe him honor and reverence.
New Orleans, Dec. 6.
-- Had some awful catastrophe occurred, evidences of general and sincere sorrow could not have been more plentiful than they have been in this city to-day. Jefferson Davis is dead, and his death has cast a shadow over the whole city in which he breathed his last. Flags have hung at half-mast all day; bells have been tolled in the slow, funereal way which tells of death, and there has been but one topic of discussion within the limits of the town.
The first capital of the Confederacy is in mourning to-day. Citizens who participated actively in the events transpiring between 1861 and 1865, while Mr. Davis was at the head of the Confederate Government, spoke in the most feeling terms of the death of the ex-chieftain of the lost cause. The State-House is draped in mourning and the flags are at half-mast. All the State departments are closed and deserted and the historic building stands like a silent monument to the deeds and memory of the old Confederate chief.
The flags on the Capitol -- the Stars and Stripes and the State flag -- were not dropped at half-mast until two o'clock this afternoon. Governor Lee returned from North Carolina this morning, and when he heard of Jefferson Davis' death he said the Legislature was the proper authority to take action and order tributes of mourning, The Legislature convened at noon and about the only business that came up was the appointment of a joint committee to draft suitable resolutions on the death of Mr. Davis. This committee will report to-morrow. The flags were then ordered to be placed at half-mast and remain so until after the funeral. Governor Lee sent a telegram of condolence to Mrs. Davis.
Acting on the suggestion of Gov. Gordon, Gov. Lowry has issued a proclamation requesting that memorial services be held throughout the State at 12 M., on Wednesday, the 11th, the day fixed for the funeral of Mr. Davis, and that the Governors of the other Southern States issue similar proclamations.
The municipal buildings here are draped in mourning, also the Register building and office of the News. The flag at the Armory is at half mast. A public meeting will be held for memorial addresses. A delegation of ex-Confederate soldiers will attend the funeral, also the Mobile Cadets, of which Mr. Davis was elected honorary member at the beginning of the war, and of which he kept the certificate of membership hanging in his office.
Many messages of condolence have been sent from this city to Mrs. Davis. Gov. Ross ordered that the flag on the Capitol be placed at half-mast.
There was profound sadness here on receipt of the news of Jefferson Davis's death. Bells were tolled and the Capitol was closed, while State and national flags were displayed at half mast on the Capitol and City Hall. The Capitol and a number of other buildings were draped in mourning. Governor Fowle sent the following telegram to Mrs. Jefferson Davis: -- "North Carolina mourns with you the death of the greatest and best beloved son of our Southland."
Intelligence having been received of the death of Jefferson Davis, which occurred at 1:15 o'clock this morning in the city of New Orleans, it is meet and fitting that the people of South Carolina should evidence by appropriate proceeding their veneration of love for this great and patriotic citizen, for his eminent virtues and heroic conduct in the midst of the most trying scenes of this country. I hereby invite the people of South Carolina to assemble on the day and at the hour of his funeral to join in a suitable memorial service to his memory.
Raleigh, N. C, Dec. 9.
-- Bells were tolled here, public building closed, State and National flags half-masted, and the public buildings draped in mourning.
Probably in no other city was Jefferson Davis more beloved than in Charleston. The devotion to him has always been unqualified. All the public buildings floated the National and State flags at half-mast to-day, and hundreds of business houses indicated their respect by various decorations. The military and commercial organizations of the city have already prepared suitable resolutions upon the death of the deceased statesman.
Glowing eulogies were delivered in the State Legislature here today upon Jefferson Davis. Mr. McKessick pronounced him grand on the field of battle, grand in the councils of State, grand in his clanking chains in Fortress Monroe, grand in the cold arms of death. It was proper that he should be honored by this State and the people of the whole South, whom he had served, and it was meet that the Confederate flag should be his winding sheet.
Men of all parties unite in conceding to Jefferson Davis honesty of convictions and integrity of purpose. Ex-Confederates here received the news of his death with great solemnity.
The public meeting held in the rooms of the Chamber of Commerce here was largely attended by ladies. A message of condolence and sympathy was sent to Mrs. Davis. The meeting also recommended that all business be suspended on the day of the funeral and that a memorial meeting be held Monday night.
The news of tne death of ex-President Jefferson Davis was received in Augusta with profound regret by the entire people. Private and public buildings are being draped and flags are flying at half-mast.
The news of the death of Jefferson Davis became known in Paris at an early hour this morning to the American colony, several hours before the appearance of the newspapers. A special despatch brought the sad tidings to the one most deeply interested in it, Miss Winnie Davis, the dead leader's favorite daughter, and known so well as the "Daughter of the Confederacy.'' The shock caused by the news was terrible, but she bore up bravery. During the afternoon and evening a great number of people called to leave cards and condolence in evidence of sympathy with her under the great bereavement. Miss Davis is the guest of Mrs. Pulitzer in Paris, who took her abroad in the latter part of October in the hope that the change would restore her to health. For some time before she had been suffering from impaired eyesight, the result of her work in assisting her father in the preparation of his recent book. Miss Davis herself was loath to leave her father, although he was in perfect health at the time, but the doctors were inexorable that she should go abroad in order to cornsult the most eminent oculists and rest from her secretarial labors. She intended to spend the Winter with her hostess on the Riviera and the coming Summer at one of the German baths. Miss Davis will sail for home next week.
The London papers print long obituaries of Jefferson Davis. In their editorials they say that it would be difficult to name an American who for the last forty years has occupied a more conspicuous position in the eyes of his fellow countrymen.
The War Department, over which Jefferson Davis presided under President Pierce, from 1853 to 1857, has not and will not take official notice of the death of the Confederate leader. When asked whether the flag on the War Department Building would float at half-mast on the day of Jefferson Davis's funeral, Secretary Proctor said to-day, with a very positive ring in his voice: "I had not considered that question, but it will be safe to say that the flag will not be placed at half-mast upon that occasion." Secretary Proctor said that he could see no good reason to take cognizance of the event.
In accordance with this opinion of Secretary Proctor no notice of any kind was to-day taken by the War Department officials of Mr. Davis's death. The flag, which has always been at half-mast when an ex-Secretary died, floated from the top of the flagstaff in a strong southeast breeze. The clerks in the Department were at their desks as usual, officially igrnorant of the death of Mr. Davis. No announcement will be made to the army. Solitary among the fftv-eight Secretaries of War, Jefferson Davis dies unnoticed by the Department over which he presided, and unannounced to the army which he once commanded. His portrait looks down from the gallery of pictures of ex-Secretaries which adorn the walls of the chief clerk's room in the War Department. No crape adorns it, as is customary when an ex-Secretary dies, nor will any be placed about it, and the War Department building will not, as is usual on the death of an ex-Secretary, be clothed in sombre black. To all intents and purposes, so far as the War Department is concerned, Mr. Davis died in 1861.
But Mr. Davis declined to ask for the removal of his disabilities, and it was held that he was no longer a citizen of the country, and by his refusal to ask for restoration to citizenship he had willingly alienated himself and forfeited all right to the respect that other antebellum Cabinet officers had been shown on the announcement of their death. Secretary Proctor simply said in explanation: -- "I do not see that there is anything before us in the matter. We know nothing about him; we do not know any such man. It is better to forget such things, to let them pass away from our minds."
Washington, D. C, Dec. 6, 1889; The only man now living who served under Secretary Davis's immediate administration in the Secretary's office is Major William B. Lee, who was one of the seven clerks then forming the force in that division. He is still employed in the same office.
In the death of Jefferson Davis there passes away one of the most important factors in the most momentous transaction that ever concerned this nation. As the leader on the Confederate side, much of the shaping, the conduct and the result of the civil war was due to him. He was an uncompromising Southern man for years before that strife began, an ardent advocate of State's rights, and he followed his convictions with a strength of intellect and an energy of purpose that were worthy of a better cause. He was in the wrong, and his cause failed. It was natural, perhaps, considering all the facts that led up to the war and his position as central figure in it, for him to hold to his convictions of what was truth, and when the conflict was over to refuse to swallow his bitterness. It. was hard, it would seem, for him, in looking at the progress of this country for the last twenty-four years, not to see that had his ideas of right prevailed, we could never have been what we are now, to say nothing of the splendid promises of future greatness which lie before us under our beneficent laws. But he would not see that. He lived in the past, and dreamed, standing in the ashes of dead hopes, of greatness that could not be, because it had not truth and right for its foundation. It was natural, too, for him to ask no favor of the government. He considered himself outside of it. He lived among his friends in peace, and died mourned by thousands who fought for the principles he espoused, but who, unlike him, have come to believe that what is right must prevail, because God wills it.
Jefferson Davis was a potent example of a man of splendid intellect, strong will, great courage, and other elements of high manhood, who deliberately went wrong and would not be put right. In estimating him it is unfair to let his whole career be colored by the events of four years of his life. For many years before the civil war he was one of the most commanding figures in the public eye. His services in the Mexican war any honorable man could have been proud of, and his intellect, his oratory, and his ability in handling public questions in the United States Senate, and as secretary of war, under Pierce, were recognized by his foes as well as honored by his friends. His career illustrates how great qualities in a man may be overshadowed and made to work harm, by blind self-will and strong prejudice which cannot brook opposition, but rush on to ruin. With him dies the strongest concentration in one man of that old spirit of bitterness to the government which could not forget failure. Happily, that spirit is fast dying out. Peace to the great misguided central figure of our cruel and bloody rebellion.
As we go to press the sad news comes that Jefferson Davis is dead. A man whose life and career was interwoven witli the greatest and most stirring period of our national life thus passes to the judgment of history. The stormy and eventful public career closed with the great and bloody drama in which he was so conspicuous an actor, and left him, yet in the vigor of manhood and the fulness of his intellectual powers, stranded with the wreck of the cause for which he perilled his life and hopes. For twenty-five years he has lived in the land which he had served with such bravery and devotion in field and Senate deprived of the dearest rights of the citizen, the object of love and hatred equally intense, hearing words of honor and loyal affection mingled with curses and calumny. That he carried with him into retirement bitter disappointments and blasted hopes no one can doubt; but that he bore them like a philosopher and a hero we may know by the serene old age to which he has been spared to live. The curses of his enemies will not be spared for the presence of death, but the tears of many thousands will fall hot and fast upon his grave. Neither those who curse nor those who weep will write the chapter which will give him his true place in history -- a chapter, perhaps, which will not be written until long after the present generation has passed away.
At an early hour yesterday morning Jefferson Davis, after a life tempestuous indeed, and full of great events, passed serenely to his final rest, while to-day in every princely hall and in every hamlet of the South clamor is hushed in the shadow of a great sorrow. The death scene as depicted in our dispatcheswsa a noble one. He died surrounded by family and friends. During all his illness he never murmured, but, realizing from the first that his end was near, the brave old Christian hero faced Death with an unfaltering trust, just as he had faced him on the battlefield many a time before. It was a peaceful, beautiful death. His frail body was not cloven through and through with the darts which generally seek the golden cord; there was no feeble, fluttering, painful hold on life as the vital forces relaxed their grasp, but as a snow-white sail far out at sea fades little by little out of sight, his great spirit passed into the upper sky.
Mr. Davis was born June 3, 1808, in southwest Kentucky, a section which gave birth to Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, and other actors more or less distinguished in the great tragedy of our civil war. While in his infancy his father removed with him to Mississippi, and in his sixteenth year he was appointed by President Monroe a cadet at large to West Point, graduating in 1828. Seven years he served as an officer in the army on the northwestern frontier in the Black Hawk war, and in various expeditions against the Comanches, Pawnees, and other hostile Indian tribes. He resigned his commission June 30, 1835, having married the daughter of Zachary Taylor, afterwards president of the United States, and settled on his plantation in Mississippi where for eight years he lived in retirement, occupied chiefly with studies which fitted him for the large part he afterwards played in public affairs. He was a presidential elector on the Polk ticket in 1844; was elected to the lower house of congress in 1845, but having been elected colonel of the First Mississippi Rifles, joined his regiment at New Orleans and hastened across the Rio Grande to join General Taylor. He was actively engaged in the storming of Monterey in September, 1846, and greatly distinguished himself in the battle of Buena Vista the following February. He was, indeed, the hero of that historic field. Attacked by a force of Mexicans five times his own numbers, he threw his regiment into the shape of a V, thus presenting a smaller front. As the enemy charged down into this deadly opening, his brave riflemen closed in on them, piling the ground with the wounded and the dying.
From 1848 till the election of Franklin Pierce as President, Mr. Davis served his state as United States senator, taking such active and leading ran k in debate that John C. Calhoun predicted for him the brilliant career he has since followed. Appointed secretary of war by President Pierce, he set about the work of reorganization. His administration reinspirited the army, and led up that department to the high standard which to-day makes it so honorable. His first work was to revise the army regulations, to introduce the light infantry tactics, the manufacture of rifled muskets and pistols and the use of the Minie-ball, theaddition of new regiments to the army the augmentation of sea-coast and frontier defences and the system of explorations for military and geographical purposes which finally led to the great Pacific railroad and binding the East to the West in common bonds. On retiring at the end of President Pierce's term he was again sent to the senate, serving until his State in January 1861 notified him officially that it had withdrawn from the Union. Since that eventful day his history has been an open book.
Though mankind may differ in its classifications of Mr. Davis with the great men of the earth, no one can deny that he possessed elements of real greatness. He was a pure, honest, self-sacrificing patriot, true to every obligation of duty and honor. So far from leading the secession movement, from his place in the senate he pleaded to the last for the Union, and the constitution -- for peace and reconciliation. "From sire to son," said he, "has descended the love of Union in our hearts, as in our history are mingled the names of Concord and Camden, of Saratoga and Yorktown, of Bunker Hill and New Orleans . . . the monuments of our common glory, and no Southern man would wish to see that monument reduced by one of the Northern names, that constitute the mass." When his State seceded, he delivered a touching and tender valedictory to his Northern colleagues in the senate. Elected president of the Confederate States he called heaven to witness his earnest prayer to avert the catastrophe of civil war. "Since we cannot live together in peace, all we ask is that those who never held power over us shall not attempt our subjugation by arms."
During the war President Davis's state papers were models of vigorous statesmanship -- they read like rifts from the English classics. It cannot be claimed that he committed no errors, but his undying devotion to country and to the cause he had espoused cannot be questioned by his bitterest foes -- and no man who ever lived has been at once so loved and hated as Jefferson Davis.
Driven from Richmond to Danville, from Danville into North Carolina, and from North Carolina into Georgia, he was making his way to the trans-Mississippi when captured. He never for one moment wavered in the purpose to fight to the death, rather than submission. With the ruins of empire crumbling about him on every hand, he bore himself as no one of the world's great heroes has ever done. In North Carolina, after the fall of Richmond, he said: "Relieved from the necessity of guarding particular points, our army will be free to move from point to point to strike the enemy in detail, far from his base." He declared it to be his purpose never to submit, and exhorted his countrymen "to meet the foe with fresh defiance and with unconquered and unconquerable hearts."
History tells of Marius amid the ruins of Carthage, of Belisarius in the streets of Constantinople, of Napoleon at St. Helena, but what nobler tribute was ever paid to a fallen chieftain than U. S. Surgeon Craven bestows in his Prison Life of Jefferson Davis?
Released from prison, the ex-President of the Conferacy was offered a lucrative partnership in return for his name alone in a mercantile firm in Liverpool. Though poor in purse and homeless, he yet rejected the proposition, as one which he could not conscientiously accept. "With clean hands and a pure heart he has faithfully executed all public trusts." No suspicion of personal dishonor has ever stained his record as a Christian, a man, a patriot.
"His eighty winters freeze with one rebuke,
All great self-seekers trampling on the right."
Purity of purpose, devotion to duty, a spotless record, sterling integrity, a manly, upright, Christian principle characterized his eventful life. Friend and foe alike are blinded now. The historian of the future will do justice by the name and fame of Jefferson Davis.
The death of Jefferson Davis marks the departure of one who [for nearly a generation has had only a historical interest to the American .people. And it is as a historical figure, as far removed from the stern judgments of the hour as Bolingbroke or Pitt, that he will be viewed even by those who, under the cruel pressure of terrible events, were wont to regard him as the incarnation of [treason and rapine. We have been so long accustomed to regard Mr. Davis as the embodiment of the Southern Confederacy, as the object of extreme hatred by one class of our people and of extreme adulation by another, that it is difficult to assign him a true place among the rulers of men. A generation must pass and many hidden things become known before the tribunal of history will pass its final judgment upon his character and his career.
We know enough of the inner workings of that extraordinary movement which developed into civil war to know that Mr. Davis was not an original extreme secessionist, that he cherished Union hopes long after Yancey, Rhett, Toombs and their fiery associates had become enemies of the Republic.
His course recalls the reluctance with which Washington and Franklin accepted separation from Great Britain, and how they were driven into revolution by the fiery counsels of Jefferson and the Adamses.
In the Southern Confederacy as in the Revolution, when the time came for action Davis was selected because he represented the conservatism and character of the secession movement. The extreme secessionists supported Robert Toombs, and Confederate leaders have lamented that Toombs, with his passion and fury, his supposed Danton-like energy and animosities, was not at the head of the South rather than the military martinet Davis. They believed in a volcanic, chaotic, anarchical war -- the South streaming over the North like the Huns over the Roman provinces. But the conservative counsels prevailed, and the reluctant secessionist Davis became the President of the Confederacy.
We question if the volcanic policy which Toombs favored would have helped the Confederacy. Historical criticism shows the fatuity of that whole secession movement, and the impossibility of ultimate success against the resolution and patience of the North. Mr. Davis, however, did as much with his Confederacy as was possible. He maintained it as a political force for four years, standing by it with intense, unreasoning, stubborn devotion, never murmuring nor admitting defeat, proud to the end, the last of the Confederates to furl the Confederate flag, awed by no reverse, discouraged by no disaster, obstinate, gloomy, implacable, taking the sternest responsibilities, offering no compromise, seeking none, never veiling his cause by apologies, nor until the hour of his death showing the least regret. We may give him the praise that history awards to Pitt for that statesman's resistance to Napoleon. Yet this praise brings its condemnation. If Pitt had shown true statesmanship, he would have come to terms with Bonaparte at Amiens and saved England many a day of sorrow and shame. And if Davis had had the highest political courage he would have seen that every soldier killed after Gettysburg and Vicksburg was sacrificed in a hopeless cause, and that then his Confederacy was doomed.
In the essential elements of statesmanship Davis will be judged as the rival and parallel of Lincoln. When the two men came face to face, as leaders of two mighty forces, bitter was Northern sorrow that Providence had given the South so ripe and rare a leader and the North an uncouth advocate from the woods. But it was not long before the North was to realize with gratitude the wisdom of Providence in so ordaining it. Lincoln steadily grew to his work. Flexible, patient, keen, resolute, far-seeing, with pathetic common sense and a strange power over the hearts of men, Lincoln led and fashioned his hosts, never advancing to recede, outmatching Davis at every point by his diplomacy, his knowledge of politics, his power to wait as well as his power to strike crushing blows. It is painful to contrast this nimble, subtle genius, adapting itself to the mutations of every hour, with the cold mathematics of Davis, who managed politics upon the barren dogmas of Calhoun and conducted war like a tutor at West Point. The man who saw the skies above and the horizon about him was to overmaster the precise metaphysician who saw nothing but his tasks and lived in the traditions of an antecedent generation.
The later years of Mr. Davis have been marked by a spirit which grew impatient with advancing age. His invectives against the North were heard by those against whom they were directed with pity. We felt almost as if he were saying with Lear, "You do me wrong to take me out of the grave." They were truly the words of a foolish, fond old man, who could not outlive the remembrance of the fact that he was once the ruler of a people, the leader of a lost cause. He lived and died in the indulgent recognition of his countrymen. His Confederacy has gone into the limbo of dead political experiments. The knightly genius of Lee, the sombre fury of Jackson, the gallantry of Stuart, the narrow fanaticism of Sydney Johnston, the proud, unpausing valor of the hundreds of thousands who followed them to the supreme fate of war -- all will live in song and story as an undying part of our history. And in this history no one will hold a more conspicuous place than the stern, implacable, resolute leader, whose cold, thin lips have closed forever in that beloved South which he served with passion if not with wisdom.
The death of Jefferson Davis at the age of eighty-one is one of the most memorable events of a memorable year. A veteran in arms and statesmanship, it could not be said of him that he lagged superfluous on the public stage. It was well for him, and well for a re-united country, that the years of the chief organizer of secession should have been prolonged beyond the normal limit of threescore and ten. Had he died twenty, or even ten years ago, the embers of fratricidal passion might have been raked anew into baleful fires over his grave. As it is, there is no one to revile, and there are many to honor, or at all events to respect, his memory. He has outlived sectional enmity and personal detraction. He has lived long enough to see the political atmosphere purged of prejudice and rancor, and to forecast in the candid attitude of Northern contemporaries the sober and unbiassed judgment of posterity.
It was with a fine prescience of what was due to the nation's magnanimity, and to the ingrained honesty of the arch-rebel, that Horace Greeley set his hand to the bail bond that delivered Jefferson Davis from imprisonment, and from the jeopardy of a trial for high treason. Seldom has a gracious act provoked at the moment more reproach and indignation, and seldom has any been more fully sanctioned in the end by the softened heart and enlightened conscience of a people. Not only laws, but rightful estimates of principles and motives, are unasserted or unheeded amid the shock of arms. Many years of peace and of dispassionate retrospect have been required to convince the men who fought and suffered for the Union, that in his disruptive view of the Constitution and the reserved rights of States, Jefferson Davis was entirely sincere, and powerfully fortified by teaching and example. The air, hot with hatred and dense with the smoke of battlefields, needed to be cooled and clarified before all of us could recognize that the ill-starred President of the Southern Confederacy did but carry to their foreseen conclusion doctrines not only formulated by John C. Calhoun, but avowed and advocated by such steady representatives of New England feeling as Timothy Pickering and Josiah Quincy. Mr. Davis lived long enough, however, to hear thoughtful men acknowledge that truth is verily a gem of many facets, and that he whose gaze is fastened on one of its aspects is not to be judged harshly because, to others, circumstances give another point of view. By no argument, but by the inexorable logic of events, were the upholders of the right of secession dislodged from their position. From the hour that the Louisiana purchase gave to the United States the Mississippi valley, it was written in the book of fate that their Union should be unbroken. Thomas Jefferson himself was blind to the consolidating purport of his great achievement, and for two generations no man at the South or at the North -- not even Daniel Webster -- deciphered the irrevocable decree of destiny.
In his conviction of the justice of the cause with which his name is inseparably associated Mr. Davis never wavered. In affirming the right of a State to resume its sovereignty he believed himself warranted by indisputable precedents and by sound reasoning, and in living up to the faith that was in him, he believed that he did his duty. To that faith he clung as firmly in his last hour as when, nearly thirty years ago, he went forth from the Senate of the United States with a full appreciation of the significance of his solemn leave-taking. His powers of intellect were undimmed to the end, and their latest exercise was a vindication of the principles for which he had risked his life. It is only a few weeks since, from what we now know to have been his death-bed, he penned an impressive letter to be read at the commemoration of the tardy adoption of the Federal Constitution by North Carolina. In that letter, to which the date of its composition lends a pathetic interest, the grounds of fact and argument on which the right of secession was asserted are set forth with incomparable clearness and cogency, as if, on the eve of extinction, the writer's mind had summoned all its forces for an outgush of extraordinary fervor. From him came no accent of self-exculpation or self-reproach. Failure had brought sorrow, but no compunction. Amid irreparable disaster, Jefferson Davis was sustained by a serene consciousness that he had done a man's work according to his lights, and that while unable to command success, he had striven to deserve it. Even among those who looked upon him with least sympathy it was felt that this man bore defeat and humiliation in the high Roman fashion, and that of him and his loyalty to a lost cause it might be said, as of another majestic soul at Utica, that Victrix causa deis placuit, sed victa Catoni, (By the victor's side the Gods abide, but by the victim's, Cato.)
Mr. Jefferson Davis has been for twenty-four years thte most conspicuous monument of a Republic's generosity. Educated at public expense at West Point, he headed a rebellion against the Nation, and yet was magnanimously permitted to retain the life he had forfeited. It cannot be said of him, as of many others, that he merely obeyed his State. On leaving the Senate he avowed that his own will was in full accord with the action of his State, and history must say of him, as that most philosophical historian of the Civil War, Comte de Paris, said in his first volume, "he was the soul of the rebellion" and "had been the soul of secession." Indisputably he had conspired and labored to bring about secession, and when the rebellion had gone down, when he had been captured in ignominious flight, and after brief detention was released without punishment, it was felt throughout the world that no other nation would have been equally magnanimous. But his nature was not capable of appreciating such generosity, and he persisted even to the end in representing himself as the suffering martyr of a lost but righteous cause. By such utterances he has constantly damaged the cause of his political friends, just as his conduct helped the Union to triumph over the rebellion.
There are not many now living who realize how much this reunited Nation actually owes to the incompetence and unfitness of Mr. Davis. In 1866 Henry S. Foote predicted in his history of the war: "Twenty years hence no one will be heard to deny that to the direct and unwise interference in great military movements on the part of Mr. Davis are to be attributed nearly all the principal disasters of the war," and he thereupon gave instances of "stupid blundering" by Mr. Davis, from a Confederate point of view. The practical knowledge of war which Mr. Davis possessed to one year's service as Colonel in the Mexican War, and his conduct as President was such that E. A. Pollard, in his "Second Year of the War," does not hesitate to ascribe most of its reverses to his "military pragmatism." His harsh treatment of some efficient generals and gross favoritism for others caused constant weakness. The same writer says that Mr. Davis was a man "of the strongest prejudices, the harshest obstinacy, and the most ungovernable fondness for parasites." To clothe such a person with the despotic power almost inseparable from the discharge of executive functions in a revolutionary struggle was to invite defeat.
These criticisms of Confederate writers seemed the angry words of partisanship when first published, but have been confirmed as the records on both sides have been uncovered. Yet they do not touch the greatest service of Mr. Davis to the Union. Fatal to the Confederacy, beyond everything else, was the financial incapacity of its Administration. No part of Mr. Davis's experience had fitted him for financial success, and nobody will dispute the verdict of Mr. Pollard that he was "grossly incompetent on that subject." He began with foolish predictions that England would recog- nize the Confederacy within sixty days, or that the Confederates would "carry the war where food for the sword and torch await our armies in the densely populated cities," and in that state of mind naturally made no far-sighted provision for the future. Then he deliberately recommended in August, 1862, an unlimited issue of currency, and forced payment of Government obligations in such paper. No wonder the Confederacy practically became bankrupt within eighteen months, and from that time to the end was forced to fight at the point of starvation. What Mr. Pollard calls the "ignorant and wild financial policy" of Mr. Davis was in itself almost enough to insure defeat.
He had a rare faculty of selecting incompetent men as Jiis subordinates. This was seen, not only in his choice of Mr. Memminger as Secretary of the Treasury, but in selections of other officials who were merely obsequious clerks, but in no way competent to advise or organize. Mr. Foote bears testimony that Mr. Davis was not only "responsible for the appointment of so large a proportion of incompetent public functionaries," but also for obstinately adhering to them when their incapacity had been proved. One of the most brilliant Southerners, Mr. Yancy, who died in 1863, "had long since ceased to entertain respect for Mr. Davis's abilities, either as the manager of difficult civic concerns or as the chief controller and director of military movements," Mr. Foote bears testimony. In no aspect, therefore, can Mr. Davis be considered entitled to the regard of the Southern people, unless it be a title to their gratitude that he did much to plunge them into a terrible struggle, and much to make it disastrous.
His conduct during the last twenty years has shown no higher qualities. Other Southern men have learned to instil loyalty and hearty love of country into the hearts of the people. Mr. Davis let no opportunity pass to fan the dying flames of sectional hatred and disloyalty. Surely it is permitted to hope that he represented only what was worst in the Southern character and that, as he departs from the stage, the narrow, dictatorial and vindictive spirit which he so sharply represented may also fade away.
The death of Jefferson Davis ends a most remarkable chapter of history. It finishes the story of the most strenuous conflict that ever occurred in the world, the conflict which most vitally affected the future of the human race. The closing lines of that chapter could not be written while he lived. He was too predominantly identified with its events for that to be.
He was the intellectual leader of the movement which resulted in a war against the Union, undertaken in the sincere conviction of its necessity as a means of preserving the liberties which the Union represents.
He was the chosen chieftain of the new Republic which strove to establish itself, and whose adherents battled for its existence with a heroism the memory of which is everywhere cherished as one that does honor to the American character and name. Against him alone of all who participated in the war was the charge of treason brought. He alone was imprisoned. He was the only one who refused to renew his allegiance, and he died without accepting proffered amnesty. His attitude was thus made peculiar by circumstances and by his own choice. But it was peculiar also by reason of the exceptional way in which he w r as regarded by the public.
To the very last he was denied the generous consideration extended to all the other leaders of the Lost Cause. His acts and motives have never had the charitable interpretation given to those of his associates.
All the other Southern leaders have been judged to be sincere men, though mistaken -- men of patriotic purpose, misled by false teachings and erring only through misconception. He has had no such consideration except at the hands of a few original Abolitionists of uncompromisingly just minds. He sacrificed all for the cause he cherished, and he alone of all the South has borne £ the cross of martyrdom. Upon his shoulders fell the burden of the hate and animosity engendered by the civil war.
The other leaders have been held to have erred; he alone has been condemned as a wilful sinner. Now that he is dead it may perhaps be seen that he was in like case with all the rest, and that his memory is entitled to whatever judgment history may mete out to the others.
He was a man of commanding ability, spotless integrity, controlling conscience, and a temper so resolute that at times it approached obstinacy. In his opinions he was a doctrinaire who held inflexibly to certain fixed premises of thought and followed his logical deductions from them with relentless fidelity, withersoever the logic might lead. He was proud, sensitive and honorable in all his dealings and in every relation of life.
The key to his career is found in the two facts that he formed his convictions by the logical processes of the closet, and that he did what his convictions dictated with the unhesitating obedience of the soldier he was bred to be. The services which he rendered the country as a statesman in both branches of Congress in e the ante-bellum days, as Secretary of War, and as a soldier of the Union in Mexico, entitle him to the kindly remembrance of all who recognize ability and courage. His state papers will live in our archives as models.
He is dead in his eighty-second year. It remains for later generations than this to give the final judgment upon the deeds he did in the body.
The man who was more responsible than any other one person for the greatest civil war in modern history has gone to meet his account before his Maker. Jefferson Davis, the ex-President of the Southern Confederacy, has entered that eternity into which so many thousands of his fellow-citizens were violently hurled during the rebellion, in which he was the most conspicuous figure.
A son of the old Southern social regime, Jefferson Davis was imbued from infancy with that spirit of aristocracy which the institution of slavery developed in the upper stratum of the white race of the South. Thomas Jefferson's purchase of a vast Southwestern territory from France had the effect of making the Southern planters of the first half of this century feel that there was plenty of room in their latitude for enormous plantations. The cheapness of slave labor encouraged this idea, and the sight of an army of slaves on each plantation caused the Southern white youths to grow up taking the numerousness and inferiority of the colored race as a matter of course. The white man, his wealth and his pleasures, were the end that justified any means, and the negroes were the most convenient means. Sooner or later it was to be expected that this social spirit, prevailing universally among the intelligent and ruling classes of the South, should have an incarnation among public men. It was inevitable that in the fertile soil of free institutions it should produce a type, a man of force and intellect, fitted by heredity, training and ambition to attempt the task of applying it to government.
Jefferson Davis was this incarnation and type. A man, of tremendous force of character, great intellectual acumen and power, and unlimited ambition, he was bred in a State where the schoolboy dreams of the triumphs of statesmanship in his trundle-bed and where the enthusiasm with which the old field school greets his declamation rings in his ears like a prophecy of "the applause of listening Senates."
A West Point cadet, a soldier and a Mississippi planter, controlling numerous slaves, the ideas "command"; and "obey" became familiar to him. He absorbed from his cradle two controlling ideas that he was to have a political career, and that command of the inferior by the superior was the natural order of things, essential to the stability of society. Add to these united forces an irrepressible conflict over a standing national crime, an era that brought to the front the men of intense and narrow convictions for the defense of that crime, the men of intellectual grasp and industry who could go to the very foundations in search of sophistry to help it, and Jefferson Davis' appearance in public life follows as effect follows cause. The men of broader moral sympathies, of unselfish devotion to ideals, were left in the background, while the persevering, pushing, scheming, aristocratic statesman made his way to the front.
It has been said that Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, was really President of the United States when Franklin Pierce was ostensibly so. Certainly he developed that kind of executive ability that is begotten of self-assertion. He deeply coveted the honor, and he was clear-headed enough to see the rising of the tide of Republicanism that threatened to end his party's dynasty for a generation. As a leader in the Democratic counsels he knew that aristocratic, pro-slavery sentiments controlled them. He knew that the Calhoun doctrine of nullification would appeal strongly to the sentimental side of the Southern people. He knew that there was inside the Union no future for the Democratic leaders of his extreme faith for many years to come. Blind to the moral sin of slavery, he underestimated the moral earnestness with which an attempt to build an independent nation with its foundations set in hell would be resisted by those whom patriotism would call to the preservation of the republic of the fathers. There was no concealment of the anticipations of bloodshed. The whole South looked for that. But slavery, like a reversal of Christianity, had accustomed its beneficiaries to the idea that the many were made to suffer for the honor and glory of the few; and to politicians educated in such a moral school bloodshed had few horrors if its results were favorable to them. As we have seen, this blindness caused its own defeat, since it underestimated the strength of the moral appeal which would be made in behalf of armed resistance to slavery. But the personal stake was light. Slave property would be taken away in a few years at best, and Southern land would be cheap, and the chance of personal glory was too splendid to be resisted by aristocratic ambition.
The time comes at last in the life of the man of commanding intellect who grows old with a conscience hardened to the resistance of original right impulses, when the outraged moral nature turns and curses him with intellectual blindness, until he pursues falsehood and absurdity as earnestly as if it were truth. Jefferson Davis embodied not merely the aristocracy of slave-land, but the strange, the chimerical paradox expressed in his own words: "A perpetual union of the States, and the secession of the States from the Union so established." No fanaticism can approach that of the man who starts out by devotion to what he wants to believe. He ultimately believes it and all that it involves with a tenacity that only death can interrupt.
In the immediate presence of death the world may leave the question of Jefferson Davis' responsibility for this terrible civil war to be settled between him and his God. How much he was to blame for its duration, and for the sacrifice of so much more blood than need have been spilled, cannot be accurately determined now ; perhaps never. Certain it was that he thought himself fitted by nature and education to dictate the movements of the Confederate armies at long range, aud that he was constantly interfering with the movements and plans of trained soldiers like Lee and Johnston, discouraging them and aspiring to leadership that only a universal genius could have exercised more wisely than the men who were in the field and who naturally knew more of the situation and could act more promptly than he. The resources of patriotism for the preservation of the Union might have been called out sooner, the rebellion suppressed earlier and peace restored before 1865, at less cost in life and treasure, had Davis been less confident of his own supreme ability and importance. But his attitude toward his generals and toward the rebel Congress was that of self-sufficiency for every possible demand. He knew everything, was perfectly sure he was right, and consequently could and would learn nothing.
OUR DEAD PRESIDENT.
The funeral of Jefferson Davis should be made the most memorable event in the history of the South since the war. The most conspicuous representative of the Southern cause has run his illustrious course, and, with folded hands and quiet lips, rests in silent peace and dignity. No more the rude alarms of war will disturb his repose; no more the breath of slander, nor the voice of calumny, nor the bitterness of sectional bigotry and hate will move his sword or pen to the defence of the people for whose just cause he spent his honorable life's work was done, and like a little child he went to Sleep. He died for the South while yet he was alive -- and though dead he should live forever in the hearts of his countrymen, the great martyr of the Confederate cause, the highest type of man, a very fountain of patriotic inspiration to those who would seek a model in the divine art of suffering for conscience' sake.
This is not the time nor the occasion for defending the life and deeds of Jefferson Davis -- indeed, when reason has once more resumed its throne, so rudely usurped by passion nearly thirty years ago, and impartial history makes up its verdict, no defence will be needed; but it is now the duty of the Southern people, as it should be esteemed a holy privilege, to unify in doing reverence to the immortal dead. The Governors of all the Southern States have been invited to take part in the funeral pageant at New Orleans. The States should also be represented by special commissioners. The surviving generals of the Confederate' armies, the regimental, battalion, and company commanders, and the non-commissioned officers and privates who wore the gray, as many of them as it may be possible to summon together, should join the funeral cortege on its way to Metairie Cemetery, where their old-time chieftain and comrade will be laid to rest. The women of the South, from Maryland to Texas, and from Carolina to Kentucky should send floral offerings to cover with sweetness and light the bier of the chivalric soldier and statesman who lived and loved and died for the South.
As it is said of General Grant and General Lee, so may it be said with equal truth of Jefferson Davis. To forget him is to forget our own self-respect; to neglect to do honor to his memory is to discredit our own manhood. Every bell that shall be tolled in the South on Wednesday next, every patriotic speech that shall fall from Southern lips, every tear that shall course down the furrowed cheek of Confederate veteran, or dim the eye of Southern matron or maiden, every flower that shall exhale its incense about the bier of the great Confederate leader, will testify to the world that though we have passed through the storms of war and revolution, we have preserved our identity and our honor.
It has become an accepted phrase to speak of Mr. Davis as "the man without a country." In a realistic sense this description was applicable to the great chieftain who has just passed away, but in the higher ideal sense it is far from accurate.
No, Mr. Davis was not a man without a country. As he lay on his death-bed, resting peacefully with his head upon his arm like a child in slumber, we may well imagine that Lee and Jackson appeared to him, followed by a noble company of those who wore the gray; and that with such escort -- the Starry Cross above -- his spirit peacefully crossed the river, conscious that he was ready to give account to his Maker of the cause that had been entrusted to his keeping, and which short-sighted mortals dare to call "the Lost Cause."
Mr. Davis's services to the people of the South did not end with the dissolution of the Government of which he was the head. The closing years of his life were devoted to the defence of their honor, and of the principles for which they had waged unsuccessful war. He was never silent when their character or conduct or the integrity of their motives was publicly assailed. He spoke and wrote courageously in their behalf at all times, and never at any time uttered a word that could compromise them or their cause, or that could be construed into an expression of doubt, even, as to the justice and rightfulness of their contest for independence.
To conclude, Jefferson Davis was an honorable and honest man; he possessed the virtues as well as the faults of his environment; he was courageous, chivalric, and sincere; a scholar, a soldier, and a statesmen, although in the latter sphere, which he moved in, he was below the level of greatness. His pride, arrogance, jealousy, vindictiveness, vainglory, narrowness, and incapacity to recognize the "new heavens and new earth" were as unmistakable as his virtues. We do not know that he has left another member of his family to mourn him except his daughter, Miss Winifred Davis.
The Life and Death of Jefferson Davis, Ex-President of the Southern Confederacy: together with comments of the press, funeral sermons, etc., etc., A. C. Bancroft, 1889