« FöregåendeFortsätt »
Some years ago my personal relations to President Davis, and my interest in and knowledge of events of Confederate History, induced an arrangement by which, with his full consent, I was to write the authorized Biography of our great Chief, and I had been diligently collecting material for that purpose.
But on learning that he had at last yielded to a general desire, and was engaged at the time of his death in preparing his own Memoirs, and that since his death Mrs. Davis has decided to complete and publish the book, under her own supervision, I gave up, of course, any plan of my own which could by any possibility conflict with this Memoir.
It was suggested to me, however, that a volume which should briefly outline the Life and Character of the great Confederate Leader, and which should gather and preserve choice selections from the world's splendid tribute to his memory, would be a prized souvenir in the homes of the people who loved him, and not unacceptable to others who are willing to know more of the man who played so conspicuous a part in American History.
But even this work I was unwilling to undertake unless it should meet with the full approval of Mrs. Davis, and be so arranged that she should bave a "royalty" on every copy sold.
I found her not only willing but anxious that these tributes of a people's love to her noble husband should be thus collected and published, and I obtained her cheerful consent that I should undertake the work, and her kind promise of valuable material for it.
I am glad to be able to add that the liberality of my publishers has made the royalty large enough to induce the hope that it will be an important source of income to the noble woman who has caught the pirit of her illustrious husband and steadfastly refused all gratuities.
The importance of an early publication has compelled the preparation of the book more rapidly than is desirable, and yet great care has been taken, and it is hoped that no serious error will be found.
I am under high obligations to the newspapers generally, and to many personal friends who have aided me in my work, and I regret that the names of those who have given me cheerful assistance are too numerous to publish, and that I must content myself with this general acknowledgment of their appreciated favors.
And while the book is in no sense an attempt at a full Biography, it is yet sent forth in the hope that it may shed much light on the Life and Character of “Our Dead President," and may show the world, and teach future generations, what a noble specimen of the Soldier, Statesman, Patrint, Orator, and Christian gentleman he was, and what. a place he held in the hearts of a grateful and loving people.
J. W. J.
Atlanta, Ga., April 3d, 1890.
I can think of no better introduction to what I may say of the life and character of the great chief of the Confederacy than to quote the first paragraph of the superb oration which he delivered at the great Lee Memorial Meeting held in Richmond, Va., on Thursday evening, November 3d, 1870.
The spacious First Presbyterian Church was packed to its utmost capacity by an audience composed largely of Confederate veterans, who gave Mr. Davis such an ovation as King or proudest conqueror might bave envied, and when the deafening cheers with which he was greeted, as he came forward to preside over the meeting, had subsided, he began his eulogy on Lee by saying: Soldiers and Sailors of the Confederacy, Countrymen and Friends:
"Assembled on this sad occasion, with hearts oppressed with the grief that follows the loss of him who was our leader on many a bloody battle-field, there is a melancholy pleasure in the spectacle which is presented. Hitherto, in all times, men bave been honored when successful; but here is the case of one who, amid disaster, went down to his grave, and those who were his companions in misfortune have assembled to honor his memory. It is as much an honor to you who give as to him who receives, for above the vulgar test of merit you show yourselves competent to discriminate between him who enjoys and him who deserves success.”
How appropriate this language to the great gathering in New Orleavs, and the great gatherings in every city, and well nigh every town and hamlet of the old Confederate States.
Describing the immense outpouring of the people, and the solemu decorum of the vast crowds at the funeral in New Orleans, Mr. F. D. Mussey, of the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, said, in his report to that paper : "The funeral of General Grant was a magnificent piece set on the stage, but this was a spontaneous outpouring of the hearts of a grateful people.”
And so it was. The man who had led his people in an unsuccessful struggle for independence died with a place in their hearts which no victor ever bad.
How can we account for this? I suppose that one way of accounting for it is to say that the intelligent people of our Southland have long
since repudiated the fullacy that "success makes right," and that this is the criterion by which to judge a cause.
One of the finest replies that I have ever heard was that given by the late Bishop J. P. B. Wilmer, of Louisiana, when some old friends of his in Philadelphia were twitting him about the failure of the Confederacy, and claiming that this proved that he was wrong in leaving his pastorate in Philadelphia to cast his lot with his beloved South.
“We told you that you were wrong," said they; "and now see how It has been proven that we were right. Look at the result."
• I see and keenly feel the result," said the Bishop ; " but I do not see that that proves anything as to who was right and who was wrong in that great contest."
""Why the conclusion is perfectly obvious, and we wonder that you do not see it. The Confederacy was overwhelmed, and was, of course, wrong in attempting to establish her independence," they confidently replied.
“I cannot see itin that light," rejoined the Bishop, "and I think that I can illustrate it so as to show even you the fallacy of your position. Suppose that you and I were to get into a heated discussion concerning some point in theology, and were to so far forget ourselves that words should come to blows. Now you are a much stronger man than I am physically; but suppose that you were to send out and get a burly Irishman, a big Dutchman, and a strapping negro, and that all four of you should, after a hard struggle, succeed in throwing me down and tieing me, would that prove that you were right, and that I was wrong? Now the North, much stronger physically than the South, had not only tlie burly Irishman, and the big Dutchman, and the strapping negro, but they had the rest of the world from which to recruit their armies, and after a four years' struggle, which shook the continent, they finally succeeded in compelling us 'to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources,' and furl forever our tattered battle-flag. Does that prove that you were right and we were wrong in the contest? Away with any such absurd doctrine."
And so our Confederate people have not looked upon Mr. Davis as the unsuccessful leader of a wrong cause, but as one who bravely, heroically, and patiently, stood for country, God, and truth, as he was given to see it, and died a noble martyr for his people.
But Jefferson Davis's claim to a place in the hearts of his people does not by any meang rest on his services to the Confederacy. As a young soldier on the frontier and in Indian wars he had illustrated the highest type of the young officer which the United States Military Academy at West Point sent out in its palmiest days; as colonel of the gallant Mississippi regiment he had won imperishable glory on the fields of Mexico, and contributed no insignificant part towards planting the
"stars and stripes" on the walls of the Montezumas; as representative of his State in the halls of Congress he had been the peer of the greatest in the House and in the Senate, even though there “were giants in those days ;" as Secretary of War he had proven himself the ablest the country has ever had, and had introduced reforms which are even now blessing the department and the service, which have refused to honor him dead; as a popular orator and able debater he had few equals and scarcely any superior-even in this land of orators ; and as a chivalric, stainless, Christian gentleman, and an incomparablo patriot, he won the respect and esteem of all who knew him, and has left behind a record of which his people are justly proud.
Besides all this, he suffered in the room of his people, went to prison for them, had indignity put upon him, and was hated, slandered, maltreated and ostracised in the land he had served so faithfully-all for them. No wonder, then, that the people in our Southlapd loved Jefferson Davis ; that they felt the deepest interest in all that concerned him, as he spent the evening of his days in his home beside the Gulf; that they watched with breathless interest the news of his sickness; that there was mourning in palace and cottage alike when the wires flashed the tidings of his death, and that immense crowds attended his funeral ; that memorial services were held and eloquent culogies pronounced in every city, town and village in the South ; and that now the people are profoundly interested in everything concerning his life, his character, his death, or his funeral obsequies.
In a speech delivered in Atlanta during the visit of Mr. Davis, at the unveiling of the monument of his friend, B. H. Hill, in May, 1886, the gifted and lamented Henry W. Grady, in his own matchless eloquence, spoke of “Jefferson Davis, the uncrowned King of his people." Thank God, he is no longer "uncrowned." His people have crowned him with loving hearts, and redeemed by the blood of that Saviour in whom he humbly trusted, he has come off "conqueror-aye, more than conqueror," and the Captain of our Salvation has given him "palms of victory" and a crown" of rejoicing
“That crown with recrless glories bright,