The Papers of Jefferson Davis
 
The Papers of Jefferson Davis

Photograph by Montgomery C. Meigs, 1859 Library of Congress

 

 

Jefferson Davis to William Allen


Warren County Mi[ssissippi,] 24th July 1840

"I long hae thought my honored friend
A something to hae sent ye," and though I have nothing now more than my thanks for your kind recollection of me and these in my heart I have often returned to you. I take the occasion of your return from the sphere of your public duties [the U.S. Senate]--to break perhaps you will say the only repose which those duties leave you to enjoy--well, I bring my offering of thanks, the sacrifice of a pure spirit would always burn, I am willing that mine should be adjudged by that test.

I received your speech of Feby. eleventh on the assumption of state debts and could but illy espress to you the gratification it gave me as your friend and as such I candidly tell you, I consider it the best English sample of the Demosthenean style. I recollect you saw in Mr. [John C.] Calhoun's speech on the independent Treasy, an especial likeness to the grecian orator[.] I thought he was too sententious, nor indeed could any one opening a question of expediency or dwelling on details of finance speak as Demosthenes did when he addressed men nearly as well informed as himself on the subject of which he spoke and addressed them not to argue but to lay bare before them the true issue and excite them to action-- but perhaps like the Vicar of Wakefield said to the lecturer on Cosmogony you may say to me-- however with this difference that instead of once you may have heard all this a dozen times before and that instead of the second it is the first time you have heard it from me.

Before I quit the subject of speeches I must tell you of an old democratic friend of mine who lives some distance back in the hills and who notwithstanding the great increase of Post Offices is quite out of striking distance of a mail line--he came to see me in the spring of '38[.] I handed him your speech on the independent Treasy. Bill after reading it, he asked me to let him take it home and show it to some of his neighbors. I have seen him frequently since but his "neighbors" have not yet gotten through with it--when Lord Byron saw an American edition of his works he said it seemed like to posthumous fame--recurring to my old friend of the hills, he states it as a political maxim that "no honest sensible whig can read Allen's and [Thomas Hart] Benton's speeches without turning their politics"

I am living as retired as a man on the great thoroughfare of the Mississippi can be, and just now the little society which exists hereabout has been driven away by the presence of the summer's heat and the fear of the summer's disease.

Our Staple, Cotton, is distressingly low and I fear likely to remain so until there is a diminished production of it, an event which the embarassed condition of cotton planters in this section will not allow them to consider--if our Yankee friends and their coadjutors should get up a scheme for bounties to particular branches of industry I think the cotton growers may come in with the old plea of the manufacturers "not able at present to progress without it."

With assurances of sincere regard of the pleasure it will always give me to hear from you and to mark your success I am yr. friend

Jeffn. Davis 

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