Jefferson Davis to Charles J. Searles
Brierfield, 19th Sept. 1847
MY DEAR SIR: Your highly valued letter of the 3d Inst., came duly to
hand, but found me quite sick, and I have not been able at an earlier
date to reply to it. Accept my thanks for your kind solicitude for my
Your past conduct enabled me to anticipate this from you and I am therefore doubly grateful.
The political information you communicate was entirely new to me, and
it is only under the belief that the crisis renders important the views
of every southern man, that I can account for any speculations having
arisen about my opinions as to the next Presidency. I have never
anticipated a separation upon this question from the Democracy of
Mississippi, and if such intention or expectation has been attributed to
me, it is not only unauthorised but erroneous.
That it might become necessary to unite as southern men, and to
dissolve the ties which have connected us to the northern Democracy: the
position recently assumed in a majority of the non- slave holding
states has led me to fear. Yet, I am not of those who decry a national
convention, but believe that present circumstances with more than usual
force indicate the propriety of such meeting. On the question of
Southern institutions and southern rights, it is true that extensive
defections have occurred among Northern democrats, but enough of good
feeling is still exhibited to sustain the hope, that as a party they
will show themselves worthy of their ancient appellation, the natural
allies of the South, and will meet us upon just constitutional ground.
At least I consider it due to former association that we should give
them the fairest opportunity to do so, and furnish no cause for failure
by seeming distrust or aversion.
I would say then, let our delegates meet those from the north, not as
a paramount object to nominate candidates for the Presidency and
Vice-Presidency, but before entering upon such selection, to demand of
their political brethren of the north, a disavowal of the principles of
the Wilmot Proviso; an admission of the equal right of the south with
the north, to the territory held as the common property of the United
States; and a declaration in favor of extending the Missouri compromise
to all States to be hereafter admitted into our confederacy.
If these principles are recognized, we will happily avoid the worst
of all political divisions, one made by geographical lines merely. The
convention, representing every section of the Union, and elevated above
local jealousy and factious strife, may proceed to select candidates,
whose principles, patriotism, judgement, and decision, indicate men fit
for the time and the occasion.
If on the other hand, that spirit of hostility to the south, that
thirst for political dominion over us, which within two years past has
displayed such increased power and systematic purpose, should prevail;
it will only remain for our delegates to withdraw from the convention,
and inform their fellow citizens of the failure of their mission. We
shall then have reached a point at which all party measures sink into
insignificance, under the necessity for self-preservation; and party
divisions should be buried in union for defence.
But until then, let us do all which becomes us to avoid sectional
division, that united we may go on to the perfection of Democratic
measures, the practical exemplification of those great principles for
which we have struggled, as promotive of the peace, the prosperity, and
the perpetuity of our confederation.
Though the signs of the times are portentous of evil, and the cloud
which now hangs on our northern horizon threatens a storm, it may yet
blow over with only the tear drops of contrition and regret. In this
connection it is consolatory to remember, that whenever the tempest has
convulsively tossed our Republic and threatened it with wreck, brotherly
love has always poured oil on the waters, and the waves have subsided
to rest. Thus may it be now and forever. If we should be disappointed in
such hopes, I forbear from any remark upon the contingency which will
be presented. Enough for the day will be the evil thereof, and enough
for the evil, will be the union and energy and power of the south.
I hope it will soon be in my power to visit you and other friends at
Vicksburg, from whom I have been so long separated. I am, as ever, truly
From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 3, pp. 225-26. Transcribed from the Vicksburg Weekly Sentinel, October 6, 1947.