I found this article quite interesting. It was published after Davis had passed away the previous year, and shows among other things that up until the end of his life, Davis remained interested in setting out his views of US history and standing up for the Confederate soldier. It is always interesting to me to get a glimpse of what he believed about what he had lived through and led.
This piece originally appeared in the North American Review, February 1890.
To DO justice to the motives which actuated the soldiers of the Confederacy, it is needful that the cause for which they fought should be fairly understood; for no degree of skill, valor, and devotion can sanctify service in an unrighteous cause.
Davis invokes the memory of George Washington, and says that Washington was a genuine rebel. And he looks back to the revolution against Great Britain for the foundational principles which he believed the southern states exercised in secession.
We revere the memory of Washington, not so much for his achievements in arms as for his self-abnegation and the unfaltering devotion with which he defended the inalienable rights of the people of all the United States. This made him first in peace, first in war, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, and for this the great English poet wrote: “But one were worthy of the name of Washington.” Yet he was what no Southern soldier in the War Between the States could, with truth, be called–a rebel–and, without much extravagance in the figure, was said to have fought the battles of the Revolution with a halter round his neck. Had there been no inalienable rights, or had they not been violated, he could not rightfully have been absolved from his allegiance to the crown, or conscientiously have felt that he had not broken his faith as subject to the lawful powers of the British Government, in taking up arms against it.
The permeating principle was that every people had the right to alter or abolish their government when it ceased to answer the ends for which it was instituted. Each State decided to exercise that right, and all of the thirteen united to sustain it. Great Britain denied the existence of the asserted right and a long war ensued. After a heavy sacrifice of life and treasure, the Treaty of Paris was negotiated in 1783, by which Great Britain recognized the independence of the States separately, not as one body politic, but severally, each one being named in the act of recognition.
After some examination of the nature of state sovereignty prior to the adoption of the Constitution, Davis lays out the bottom line:
In the face of the Declaration of Independence, and of the Articles of Confederation, and of the Treaty of Paris, he who denies that in 1783 each State was a sovereign, free, and independent community must have much hardihood or little historical knowledge.
Next he examines the adoption of the Constitution.