Treatment of the Davis Slaves

Piedone

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View attachment 398372

Brierfield. Miss. Dec. 12th 1889

To Mrs. Jefferson Davis
Beauvoir Miss

We the old servants and tenants of our beloved master Hon Jefferson Davis have cause to mingle our tears over his death who was always so kind and thoughtful for our peace and happiness: we express our humble sympathy.

Respectfully yr
Old Tenants & Servants
Teldy Everson, Ned Gaitor
Hy Garland, Tom McKinney
Louisa Nick, Grant McKinney
Wm Green, Mary Pemberton
Guss Williams, Mary Archer
& others Eliza. Martin
William Norris
Isarel Ketchens
That´s an interesting source - could you provide some more information about it?
I have the impression that the text and the names of the underwriters were written by a single person as the handwriting seems to be quite the same.
Is it known who actually wrote this paper? And where was it found?
 

Andersonh1

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That´s an interesting source - could you provide some more information about it?
I have the impression that the text and the names of the underwriters were written by a single person as the handwriting seems to be quite the same.
Is it known who actually wrote this paper? And where was it found?

https://www.vicksburgpost.com/2008/05/24/local-friends-distant-ediorialists-offered-tributes-2/

A large number of his former slaves went to the funeral to pay their respects. Others, too old to travel, sent Mrs. Davis a telegram, a very moving message signed by 13 of them: “We, the old servants and tenants of our beloved master, Honorable Jefferson Davis, have cause to mingle our tears over his death, who was always so kind and thoughtful of our peace and happiness. We extend to you our humble sympathy.”​
I'm not sure if the note came first to indicate what the contents of the telegram should be, or if it was made later. It was far from the only tribute to Davis by his former slaves, if you read the article.
 

Andersonh1

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The letter from the former slaves is also found in "The Davis Memorial Volume", chapter 18.
His kind treatment of his slaves in ante-bellum days, and of his servants since, was not only well known to his neighbors and friends, but seems to have been warmly appreciated by them, as the following will show:​
"Raleigh, N. C., December 11, 1889.​
"James H. Jones, who was the body-servant of Jefferson Davis at the time of his capture, and has for many years been an alderman of this city, to-day sent the following dispatch:​
"Raleigh, N. C., December 11, 1889.​
"'To Mayor Shakspeare, New Orleans:​
"'As the old body-servant of the late Jefferson Davis, my great desire was to be the driver of the remains of my old master to their last resting-place. Returning too late to join the white delegation from this city, I am deprived of the opportunity of showing my lasting appreciation for my best friend.​
James H. Jones.'​
"At the memorial services to-day he had a seat immediately in front of the stage. When last here Mr. Davis excused himself from other callers to go to his room and talk with 'My friend, James Jones.'"​
Brierfield, Mississippi, January 12, 1889.​
"To Mrs. Jefferson Davis, Beauvoir, Mississippi:​
"We, the old servants and tenants of our beloved master, Hon. Jefferson Davis, have cause to mingle our tears over his death, who was always so kind and thoughtful of our peace and happiness. We extend to you our humble sympathy. Respectfully your old tenants and servants, Ned Gator, Tom McKinney, Grant McKinney, Mary Pendleton, Mary Archer, Elijah Martin, Wm. Nervis, Isabel Kitchens, Teddy Everson, Hy Garland, Laura Nick, Wm. Green, Gus Williams and others."​
Another of his old servants came all the way from Florida to see him when he learned of his sickness, and was deeply distressed at his death, and one of the most touching incidents of the funeral was the presence and sorrow of some of his old servants. - p 467-468 "The Davis Memorial Volume" by J. William Jones, D. D.
 

Tom Hughes

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Mississippi
History certainly dictates to us in 2021what a compassionate and loving man Jeff Davis was.

on a side note: My G-G Grandfather was a resident of Beauvoir (James Turner Farr) when the home was given by Mrs. Davis to be used as a home for Confederate veterans. I need to go to Biloxi and visit the Davis shrine and presidential library that is on site. They may have more recorded information regarding ex-slave relations
 

unionblue

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"Why don't we take their word for it", only applies if their words fit the preferred narrative.

We've read & heard, some actual words in this thread, from the former slaves themselves. I would think actual words of the people themselves, would or should take precedence over what an author writes 140 yrs later. It does for me.
Doesn't for me.

Like I have said (and shown) there are multiple sources, verifiable ones, that often show another side of the presented thread topic.
 

Andersonh1

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Yeah, it seems a bit like a smarmy defense of slave-holding.

It's neither. Some of Davis's former slaves said positive things about him or expressed grief at his death. Like it or not, that is part of the historical record. Pointing that out is not a defense of slave holding. Denying it for whatever reason is pushing inaccurate history.
 
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Tom Hughes

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It appears there is in fact, evidence in the written form by former slaves of Jefferson that support the proposition that they had some affection for him at the time of his death. It also seems to be true from the record that former slaves returned to play music and fraternize with Jefferson. Under the reasonable assumption that former slaves who detested Davis would not either write to the family at his death, or show up to play music for him, the weight of the record indicates that at least some of the former slaves did in fact appreciate Davis. Perhaps evidence will be presented showing the opposite. Perhaps there will be written records of former slaves that detested Davis for the very fact that he owned slaves. At that point, and only then, will the present evidence be refuted. The record is what it is and one's wishes that the Davis slaves had not written or done what they did does not refute it.
Davis had a school built and educated his slaves. That in itself is noteworthy.
 
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It really doesn’t matter our feelings. Just look at what the slaves said. It really is a testimony of Davis’ treatment of them.I’m not defending slavery but there were many whose lot in life was just that. Like I said earlier, if I were a slave then put me on the Davis plantation.
The biggest credit to Davis was this - even 26 years after Emancipation they loved him. What a testimony!!
So, this thread is not about the evils of slavery, but about how wonderful Davis treated his slaves and is not about the right or wrong about slavery, but about his treatment of them.

Sorry, but no matter how well the cell is padded to keep the prisoner safe and from harm, it's still a cell. And every time slavery is brought to the fore as not being so bad, some slaves were treated as family, some slaves actually showed feelings of affection for their masters, or Davis was a swell slaveholder, even his slaves liked him, etc., I want to gag.

Certain phrases go off like alarm bells to me. "those in his charge," "treated so well," "they loved him," "if I were a slave."

I don't care if Davis gave his slaves presents on their birthdays, weekends off, free medical care, and had Santa drop off packages down the slave quarter chimneys. Davis, even in his kindest of days, considered these people the same as some farmers considered their favorite cows. They weren't fully human nor deserving of the consideration that they had greater potential as human beings when free, rather than being kindly treated as a prized work animal.

Slavery is a degrading and evil institution, no matter how kind, no matter how gently applied, no matter to what degree it is enforced. And we both should be able to see, Davis was a rare exception in his application of this bondage. I fully agree his slaves were probably very happy and glad they were owned by him. But what choice did they have in their feelings? And that's the problem, even 26 years later, in a Jim Crow era, how the heck can we be sure of their true feelings?

No, I just cannot go along with the idea that because they weren't beaten every day to ensure they went out among the fields to work or they were 'kindly' treated by their 'Master,' (the very use of the word in this context infuriates me) the bottom line is that they were all slaves, considered as something less than human, only fit to be guided by a 'kind master' who saw them as nothing more than most of us today would view our favorite, four-footed, pets.

Davis's treatment of his human property nor his happy contented slaves holds no charms or praise from me.

They were still just slaves held in bondage.

Unionblue
PS: I know that you are not extolling slavery or finding it right, but the subject is, as you can tell, a sore point with me. My apologies if my above has given offense.
I don’t think any offense is taken. Tom is only trying to tell the TRUTH about the Davis slaves. I think truth in any subject is the most important factor, whether it’s offensive or not.
 

Tom Hughes

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I don’t think any offense is taken. Tom is only trying to tell the TRUTH about the Davis slaves. I think truth in any subject is the most important factor, whether it’s offensive or not.
I don't take offense to anything that is said. I'm just glad we have a forum where we can examine the lives of people during the 19th century and how they interacted with one another. Whether free, slave, Yankee or Rebel. It's all history. Just as long as I'm not personally attacked...it's all okay..lol
 

unionblue

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I don’t think any offense is taken. Tom is only trying to tell the TRUTH about the Davis slaves. I think truth in any subject is the most important factor, whether it’s offensive or not.

Like the man said, "What is truth?"

We see posts that Davis treated his slaves differently than the mass of other slaveholders, but I have a hard time getting past the "truth" Davis's slaves were treated as slaves.

What was Davis's attitude and beliefs about slaves? That they could never be his equal in any sense. He stated he was polite to his slaves so they could not be superior to him in being polite. He was "paternal" in the way he treated his slaves, in my view, keeping them forever in a cradle of ignorance and child like behavior. He considered all his slaves inferior to him and all other white men, that slavery was for their own good and protection.

No thanks, for that kind of "kindness" I'm glad his "child-like people, fled his plantation when the Union army approached his plantation.

His behavior and attitude toward his slaves are not to be admired or thought well of. They are simply a different degree of human bondage that needed to be eradicated as soon as possible.
 

Tom Hughes

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Like the man said, "What is truth?"

We see posts that Davis treated his slaves differently than the mass of other slaveholders, but I have a hard time getting past the "truth" Davis's slaves were treated as slaves.

What was Davis's attitude and beliefs about slaves? That they could never be his equal in any sense. He stated he was polite to his slaves so they could not be superior to him in being polite. He was "paternal" in the way he treated his slaves, in my view, keeping them forever in a cradle of ignorance and child like behavior. He considered all his slaves inferior to him and all other white men, that slavery was for their own good and protection.

No thanks, for that kind of "kindness" I'm glad his "child-like people, fled his plantation when the Union army approached his plantation.

His behavior and attitude toward his slaves are not to be admired or thought well of. They are simply a different degree of human bondage that needed to be eradicated as soon as possible.
I'm so sorry you missed the entire point of this thread.
 

Tom Hughes

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We're not allowed to discuss how Jefferson Davis treated his slaves?
No...the point of this thread is the acknowledgement of this ex-slave to state his affection for his old master. And when I found this in the museum I thought it worthy of discussion of this relationship. That’s it. Now, go back and read the beginning of this thread.
 

Andersonh1

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No...the point of this thread is the acknowledgement of this ex-slave to state his affection for his old master. And when I found this in the museum I thought it worthy of discussion of this relationship. That’s it. Now, go back and read the beginning of this thread.

I was questioning our fellow poster's declaration of this thread as pointless. I disagree with Unionblue, this thread tells us something about both Davis, and the people he owned at one point. And if we're truly interested in understanding this history, learning about these historical individuals is worthwhile.

Like Viper21, I have to point out that the standard I was introduced to when I first joined these boards, that of "taking their word for it", is selectively applied. So when 13 of Davis's former slaves sign a message to Varina Davis that says Jefferson Davis "was always so kind and thoughtful of our peace and happiness", some would have us discount that as meaningless, but it tells us something about Jefferson Davis that Tom McKinney, Grant McKinney, Mary Pendleton, and those other former slaves would say that about him, and express grief at his death, and care enough about his widow to send their sympathies. And that's worth knowing.
 
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Tom Hughes

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I was questioning our fellow poster's declaration of this thread as pointless. I disagree with Unionblue, this thread tells us something about both Davis, and the people he owned at one point. And if we're truly interested in understanding this history, learning about these historical individuals is worthwhile.

Like Viper21, I have to point out that the standard I was introduced to when I first joined these boards, that of "taking their word for it", is selectively applied. So when 13 of Davis's former slaves sign a message to Varina Davis that says Jefferson Davis "was always so kind and thoughtful of our peace and happiness", some would have us discount that as meaningless, but it tells us something about Jefferson Davis that Tom McKinney, Grant McKinney, Mary Pendleton, and those other former slaves would say that about him, and express grief at his death, and care enough about his widow to send their sympathies. And that's worth knowing.
I agree wholeheartedly. Nobody made these ex-slaves voice their views about Davis in 1889. They had honest affection for him. That in itself is noteworthy.
 

unionblue

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We're not allowed to discuss how Jefferson Davis treated his slaves?
Are you somehow of the opinion I can stop the discussion of how Jefferson Davis treated his slaves?

Of course I can't nor would I want to.

But by the some token, no one should be able to stop me on reflecting how silly it is (in my personal opinion) to express the opinion that some slaves were treated differently from other slaves. It just seems to me when we are talking about the degrees of slavery, we are trying somehow to justify the institution as not so bad for the slaves.

We have this thread in particular, presented as how Jefferson Davis's slaves were somehow treated better because he owned them and enforced a different kind of slavery. I gather the intent is to show Jefferson was even liked and admired by his slaves because of the treatment he administered was relatively less harsh than a typical slave owner..

I think that kindness shown and returned shows just how sickening the institution truly was. There mere label of the word slave makes my stomach turn.

It matters not one whit how Jefferson treated his slaves or how much his slaves appreciated not being placed in as severe a condition of other slaves "less fortunate" not to be OWNED by him. They were still slaves, owned by him, worked by him, even bought by him and considered inferior to him.

He cannot in any way, by any one, be considered praise worthy for his supposed kind treatment, even by his human property.

He carries the worst label of slaveholder and no amount of even praise or accolades by his former human property, erases such a foul and horrible practice.

In my opinion,
Unionblue
 

Andersonh1

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Are you somehow of the opinion I can stop the discussion of how Jefferson Davis treated his slaves?

Of course I can't nor would I want to.

But by the some token, no one should be able to stop me on reflecting how silly it is (in my personal opinion) to express the opinion that some slaves were treated differently from other slaves. It just seems to me when we are talking about the degrees of slavery, we are trying somehow to justify the institution as not so bad for the slaves.

We have this thread in particular, presented as how Jefferson Davis's slaves were somehow treated better because he owned them and enforced a different kind of slavery. I gather the intent is to show Jefferson was even liked and admired by his slaves because of the treatment he administered was relatively less harsh than a typical slave owner..

I think that kindness shown and returned shows just how sickening the institution truly was. There mere label of the word slave makes my stomach turn.

It matters not one whit how Jefferson treated his slaves or how much his slaves appreciated not being placed in as severe a condition of other slaves "less fortunate" not to be OWNED by him. They were still slaves, owned by him, worked by him, even bought by him and considered inferior to him.

He cannot in any way, by any one, be considered praise worthy for his supposed kind treatment, even by his human property.

He carries the worst label of slaveholder and no amount of even praise or accolades by his former human property, erases such a foul and horrible practice.

In my opinion,
Unionblue

This repetitive emphasis on "slave" or "slaveholder" makes it seem as if that status is the only defining trait for both Davis and the others that has any meaning to you. I don't think that's what you are trying to convey here, but that's how it comes across. And of course, they were all far more than their status in life with regard to slavery.

That former "human property" had a different opinion of Jefferson Davis than the one you've expressed. Since they lived through those times and experienced something you and I can only read about and imagine from a distance, their point of view is more authoritative than yours or mine could ever be. Simply put, we can't walk in their shoes. That they could forgive Davis after being held in slavery by him, and even praise him, should give us all pause when it comes to sitting in judgment on him many years later. They had far more right to judge him harshly than we could ever have, yet some did not. That speaks well of the character of Isabel Kitchens, Teddy Everson, Hy Garland, Laura Nick, and all the others.
 

unionblue

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This repetitive emphasis on "slave" or "slaveholder" makes it seem as if that status is the only defining trait for both Davis and the others that has any meaning to you. I don't think that's what you are trying to convey here, but that's how it comes across. And of course, they were all far more than their status in life with regard to slavery.

That former "human property" had a different opinion of Jefferson Davis than the one you've expressed. Since they lived through those times and experienced something you and I can only read about and imagine from a distance, their point of view is more authoritative than yours or mine could ever be. Simply put, we can't walk in their shoes. That they could forgive Davis after being held in slavery by him, and even praise him, should give us all pause when it comes to sitting in judgment on him many years later. They had far more right to judge him harshly than we ever could, yet some did not. That speaks well of Isabel Kitchens, Teddy Everson, Hy Garland, Laura Nick, and all the others.

Your right, I do stress "slave" and "slaveholder" and I do consider it the only defining status for Davis, my direct ancestor, and others, that has any true meaning for me and it is exactly what I am trying to convey here. You say that these people were "all far more than their status in life with regard to slavery." I say slavery defined who they were and how they approached life in all other aspects.

And that you can state the people held as "human property" had a different opinion of Jefferson Davis that what I have expressed is totally laughable to me. When the Union army approached his plantation and holdings in his home state, they fled, leaving Davis's "kindness" behind, even taking some of his furniture and clothing in appreciation of his kindness. And I marvel that I am somehow, because of "distance" I am unable to form an opinion of the man and others who believed as he did, that slaves were inferior, that their natural station in live was to be a slave to the white man and that by having the arrogance that it was fine to kidnap a people, force them on a terrifying trip crammed aboard a slave ship, then toil for the rest of their lives under a "kind" master, I should be at a loss of feeling and utter contempt for such a man.

As for the slaves judging him and having "more right" to do such, I wonder how comfortable they would have been to express any other opinion about the man and his treatment and contempt for them as fellow human beings. Oh, I don't doubt they wrote the letter upon his death or that they felt lucky to have been owned by such a man. What speaks well of those who wrote the letter is that they were far more Christian and forgiving than Davis ever was.

Unionblue
 
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