Who was Jefferson Davis?

civilwartalk

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#1
Jefferson Davis was born June 3, 1808, in what is now Fairview, Kentucky to Samuel and Jane Cook Davis. Jefferson’s father, uncles, and maternal grandfather all fought in the American Revolution. After the Revolution, Samuel moved to Mississippi.

Three of Jefferson’s older brothers fought in the War in 1812, two of them with Andrew Jackson during the Battle of New Orleans. Military service was literally in Davis’ blood so it wasn’t surprising that he eventually attended West Point as a cadet. Davis became known as an honorable, athletic young man. He graduated West Point in 1828 and was subsequently assigned to the First infantry with the rank of second Lieutenant.

Davis spent the next several years engaged in various Indian wars, including confrontations with the Blackhawk, Pawnee, and Comanche. He resigned from the military in 1835, partly at the urging of his family who felt his potential was better served in the public sector and partly to marry Sallie Knox Taylor, daughter of First Infantry commander, and future President, Colonel Zachary Taylor. Davis and Sallie contracted malaria on a trip and she died three months after their wedding. Davis recovered and after convalescing in Havana. Cuba, returned to Mississippi. He eventually remarried in February 1845 to 18 year-old Varina Banks Howell.

By that time Davis had become a successful plantation owner and deeply involved in Mississippi politics. He believed in States’ rights and decried Federal intrusion. In 1845 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. He resigned the following year and reenlisted in the army to fight in the Mexican War, winning commendations for valiant service.

In January 1848 Davis took over the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Senator Jesse Speight. A typical Southern Democrat, he consistently voted against efforts to limit or abolish slavery. But he was no secessionist.

JeffDavis.png

This was a man who loved his country and had proudly served in its military. He would later state:

“My devotion to the Union of our fathers had been so often and so publicly declared; I had on the floor of the Senate so defiantly challenged any question of my fidelity to it; my services, civil and military, had now extended through so long a period and were so generally known, that I felt quite assured that no whisperings of envy or illwill could lead the people of Mississippi to believe that I had dishonored their trust by using the power they had conferred on me to destroy the government to which I was accredited. Then, as afterward, I regarded the separation of the States as a great, though not the greater evil.”

Even though Davis was against Mississippi and other Southern states seceding, because he did not believe they could defeat the United States military, he still felt states had the right to secede, being sovereign entities. But when the Mississippi legislature voted to secede, he honored the decision and accepted the position of the state’s military leader. A month before Lincoln was inaugurated, Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the first President of the Confederate States of America.

jeffersondavis.jpg

Although Davis attempted to negotiate a peaceful secession, Lincoln would not accept a divided nation and rebuked all efforts at diplomacy. Davis’s order to attack Fort Sumter was the act that started the Civil War. Over the next four years, much of the south was decimated, both economically and structurally.

After the General Robert E. Lee surrendered, the Confederate States of America was dissolved. Davis and a handful of other Confederates were arrested and charged with treason. He spent two years in jail but the charges were eventually dropped.

Other than the two years in jail, Davis by and large suffered little consequence after the war. Most southerners considered him a hero. However, Davis remained unrepentant and bitter at his perceived trampling of states’ rights. He refused to swear allegiance to the United States so never regained his official American citizenship. Nor did he ever denounce his pro-slavery views.

Davis died December 6, 1889 and is interred at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia.
 

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#4
Davis's refusal to accept the outcome of the conflict highlights the major flaw in his character - Davis could never admit that he was wrong and someone else was right. While others accepted the defeat and tried to bind the nation back together, Davis went to his grave a bitter man wishing ill upon the United States. In spite of the fact that I know of no other case in history where the leader of a bloody rebellion got off so lightly.
 

B Peach

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#7
what is now Fairview,
then it was called Christian Country, Davis home is now in Todd county. Fairview is the nearest town, witha the nearest baptist Church where Davis was baptised.

Samuel and Jane Cook Davis
Samuel Davis was a native of Wikes county Ga, moved to Ky in 1793, to La in 1810 and Miss when J Davis was 4.
 

CSA Today

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#9
I always wondered what would have happened if his father-in-law Zachary Taylor had lived, for he threatened to hang any secessionist.
Do you reckon he would have started with his son Lt. General Richard Taylor?

"Whereas most northern cities have neighborhoods flavored by cultural identities, that is missing in the South. Southern cities have no European ethnic centers. There is no Greek-town, no Little Italy and no German neighborhood. ... For the average Southerner, the 'old country' is neither Poland nor France; it is the Confederacy."

Ronald J. Rychlak, professor of law at the University of Mississippi School of Law
 

diane

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#10
Imho, Jefferson Davis is a much misunderstood man. Davis was strongly pro-Union right up until the very last minute, when Mississippi went out. (Does that make him a galvanized rebel? :O o:) Some of his speeches show that he was very much a strict Constitutionalist - he believed the Constitution was being perverted. He didn't want to be president, either, much preferring to be a general in the field - and some might argue he would have done better there. But there really wasn't anybody else qualified for the job - unless it was Toombs or some other fire-eater. They needed a moderate. Davis was a pretty good American before he became a pretty devoted rebel! (And a really, really devoted Lost Causer....)
 
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#11
The fact that he became so devoted to the Lost Cause is what wrecked him. He simply could not admit defeat. Even after the Supreme Court ruled in 1869 secession was unconstitutional he still opposes them. Still, I find it odd someone of his professional background lost to a lawyer/one term congressman... Lincoln. How does one explain that?
 

damYankee

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#12
At the end of the war Davis became a man without a nation, had he lived in any other nation he would have been at least shunned in some places he would have paid with his life.
Perhaps not allowing him to have his day in court was more of a bitter pill to swallow then a conviction and a execution, which would have provided martyr status for Davis.
Maybe that bitterness is what drove him to be a lost causer. He was after all the leader of the Confederacy, and he wasn't even given the honor of defending himself in court. It was a dark justice, Davis had to live the rest of his life knowing he had led a failed rebellion, that he was the president of a nation that never was recognized by any other nation.
In comparing the American Revolution with the Confederate Rebellion what stands out is the personal commitments made by the leaders of the American Revolution, the men who signed The Declaration of Independence swore their lives and their fortunes to the movement. They understood that if the rebellion they led failed they would forfeit their lives and their property and their reputation, even in victory many of those who survived were left bankrupt and died broke after financing the war out of their own purse.
The leaders of the Confederate Rebellion made no such proclamation. They had no problem supporting conscription of others, and allowing those with 20 or more slaves a deferment and those with money to pay someone else to take their place, they had no qualms about comparing their activity with the image of the founding fathers, but when it came to placing their lives and their fortunes on the line, that is where the comparison stopped.
 
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#13
At the end of the war Davis became a man without a nation, had he lived in any other nation he would have been at least shunned in some places he would have paid with his life.
Perhaps not allowing him to have his day in court was more of a bitter pill to swallow then a conviction and a execution, which would have provided martyr status for Davis.
Maybe that bitterness is what drove him to be a lost causer. He was after all the leader of the Confederacy, and he wasn't even given the honor of defending himself in court. It was a dark justice, Davis had to live the rest of his life knowing he had led a failed rebellion, that he was the president of a nation that never was recognized by any other nation.
In comparing the American Revolution with the Confederate Rebellion what stands out is the personal commitments made by the leaders of the American Revolution, the men who signed The Declaration of Independence swore their lives and their fortunes to the movement. They understood that if the rebellion they led failed they would forfeit their lives and their property and their reputation, even in victory many of those who survived were left bankrupt and died broke after financing the war out of their own purse.
The leaders of the Confederate Rebellion made no such proclamation. They had no problem supporting conscription of others, and allowing those with 20 or more slaves a deferment and those with money to pay someone else to take their place, they had no qualms about comparing their activity with the image of the founding fathers, but when it came to placing their lives and their fortunes on the line, that is where the comparison stopped.
Hence why the confederates where NOT revolutionaires, but plain and simple rebels looking to justify their cause through legal means.
 

diane

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#14
That's hitting it square. That's why Davis devoted his last years to writing his tome vindicating the ideas of the Confederacy - he desperately wanted to show the right of the cause, to validate the loss of so much and so many. He did get a little balmy about it! He also desperately wanted his day in court - he was absolutely convinced that was the place the Confederacy would be shown to have been right. If it had gone against him, he'd probably have been hung but that would have been vindication, too. He'd then be the Nathan Hale of the Confederacy. But, to his credit, he was never about Jefferson Davis, or even the Confederacy - always it was the South.
 
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#15
That's hitting it square. That's why Davis devoted his last years to writing his tome vindicating the ideas of the Confederacy - he desperately wanted to show the right of the cause, to validate the loss of so much and so many. He did get a little balmy about it! He also desperately wanted his day in court - he was absolutely convinced that was the place the Confederacy would be shown to have been right. If it had gone against him, he'd probably have been hung but that would have been vindication, too. He'd then be the Nathan Hale of the Confederacy. But, to his credit, he was never about Jefferson Davis, or even the Confederacy - always it was the South.
Exactly and this is what is so unfortunate, there is nothing noble in the South and their cause unlike the Revolution. There is no Washington ending a possible coup, there is no Alexander Hamilton backing down a mob, there is no Declaration of Independence and there is no victory.
 
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#17
The fact that he became so devoted to the Lost Cause is what wrecked him. He simply could not admit defeat. Even after the Supreme Court ruled in 1869 secession was unconstitutional he still opposes them. Still, I find it odd someone of his professional background lost to a lawyer/one term congressman... Lincoln. How does one explain that?

Because Lincoln was a leader with a cause worth fighting for and Davis was not.
 



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