Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell Davis
Memphis, Tenn., 24th Aug. 1873
My dear Wife,
Your very welcome letter of the 1st Inst. was forwarded and received while I was in Richmond Va. I went thence to see the children in Lexington. Maggie appeared to be in better health than when she left us and quite happy with the Johnstons. She however expressed a wish to join and was disappointed to learn that my destination was Memphis, not Canada.
Jeff was very well and looked improved by his military dress and training. I took them and Miss Mary Johnston as far on my road as the Natural Bridge where we spent the night. In the morning I took the stage and they returned in our hack to Lexington. At the Montgomery White Sulphur Springs many of your friends inquired for you. Genl. Hardee who was there very ill, supposed to be hopelessly so, charged me specially to give you his affectionate remembrance.
I was sent by our Board to make arrangements in Richmond or elsewhere for the relief of the Carolina. The seed sown when I was in New York had germinated and there was assurance that I could soon get $150.000 of new stock taken on the condition of taking out a charter in Md. and removing the parent office from Memphis to Balto. Thus the debts of the Carolina would have been paid at once, the old stock would have been absorbed in the new company and we should gone on with our present organization and a capital of $350 or 400 thousand as a basis for future work.
But the day after I left here under the influence of panic negociations were opened with the Southern Life of Memphis and I was arrested in my negociations by a telegram announcing that the Ca. had been transferred to the "Southern Life". I find since my return that the matter was most loosely and unwisely conducted; that the managers of the So. Life have got every advantage and the debts of the Ca. are only to be paid as its means shall furnish the money. Boyle alone resisted, and his appeal for delay until my return was unheeded. I am distressed on account of outstanding claims of our Co. and embarassed by the necessity of paying the notes which stood against my stock, viz. $5.650.00. The company owes me a part of that amount, the rest I must raise on some Fire & mining Stocks which I have.
Notwithstanding the frequent and explicit declarations that there was no purpose to thwart but only a desire to serve me, it is hard to avoid being offended at so serious an injury.
The only thing which is pereptible of indirection is the evident desire to keep the business in Memphis, for local advantage. The rest I believe was due to panic, ignorance and want of due caution. Here I am alone in this big house, with furniture to fine to sell among Memphians and too valuable to sacrifice. No definite object is in view from which to derive the income we require and the little we have will be little indeed if it all be saved for you and the children. But a truce to gloomy forebodings, and let us hope that in this little family world of our's as in the great world of which we are a part, the darkest hour is that which next precedes the dawn.
Mrs. McMahon Mrs. Semmes and Mrs. Tucker of our neighbors are here and well as usual. The last mentioned is full of a pleasing theme, the good qualities and brightness of Winnie. She has employed as her assistant a Mrs. Bobo of Missi. I have not seen her, but knew the family of her late husband. They were respectable people.
Harriet behaves very well so far as I know and seems anxious to serve me. Jackson usually sleeps here, but goes away before I get up. Harriet says he only makes his living.
It is probable that either by closing up or quitting the connection, I will be free to leave here in a week from this time, and if there is nothing to prevent it then join you in Canada, and go wherever there is a prospect of getting something to do. It would not be prudent for you and Winnie to return here before frost the weather is now hot and the city by no means healthy. If I find it necessary to be here as far off as a fortnight I think of going out to see Judge Clayton and perhaps make with him a visit to the iron mine in Ala. where we9 have an investment, large on his part, small on mine. Hoping to hear soon from you I will postpone further recitals of disagreeable incidents & reflections until you have recovered from this infliction. Kiss my dear baby for her Father, remember me kindly to Mary, and take immeasurable love for his Waafe from
Little Gussy Semmes brought me a bouquet with a request that I would send it to Winnie, a leaf is enclosed.
ALS (AU, Davis Coll.). Written on Carolina Life Insurance Company stationery, with various marks made in another hand.