The Papers of Jefferson Davis
 
The Papers of Jefferson Davis

Photograph by William W. Washburn, 1888 National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Jefferson Davis' Speech at Jackson, Miss.


State Capitol, May 7, 1849

He was gratified to observe the vigilance and unanimity of the people as displayed in this assemblage, upon a question that involved both the feelings and interests of the whole community. He had not come here so much to express his own indignation at the wanton aggression of the North, as to receive fresh instruction at the hands of the people. There had been a war of seventeen years standing against the institutions of the South, a war whose weapons were both wounding and insulting. As opinion had been formed, authorized by our long supineness on this subject, that we have no sufficient feeling to perceive or to resent the attacks made upon us. Men of another section are loud in their advice that there is no danger--that action now would be hazardous or useless, and that the generosity and philanthropy of the North will always prove a sufficient safeguard to Southern rights; but such advice is the lulling of the vampire fawning the victim which he will destroy. Every compromise has been to our loss, as witness that of the North-western territory and that of Missouri. We have yielded thus far and the results have been that upon our tame submission is now based the demand that we yield the remainder. The equality left by our fathers is to be destroyed. Give to the North what is now demanded, and soon we shall find a preponderance of three-fourths against us; the constitution of the United States will be changed and all that is now promised to the South will be forgotten. Submit to the loss of this territory, and we shall have next to submit to the abolition of slavery in the District of Columbia, and soon the constitution will be changed and slavery abolished. This is the time to agitate the subject; had it been done twenty years ago all this effort were uncalled for. Recur to a period only ten years past, when the Atherton resolutions were adopted, which seemed to the South so tame and spiritless in vindication of her rights, and now no Congress of the United States could be assembled which would pass resolutions even such as they were.

The speaker fully concurred in the propriety of referring this subject to primary action among the people. He offered some facts of practical value, to prove that in a new and sparsely settled country slavery in some form must necessarily exist, and had even existed in Wisconsin, in spite of the prohibitions of the Ordinance, until the country became well settled.

From this subject, the speaker diverged to offer an encomium upon the patriotism and State pride of our citizens, as illustrative of our readiness to go as far as the farthest in defence of our rights. During this and especially when an allusion was made to our feats at Buena Vista, hearty applause from hall and gallery rang through the room.

He proceeded to say that the South is accused of revolutionary tendencies and a spirit of disunion. But when and where has this spirit been exhibited? Our history displays deference to lawful rule, long forebearance under oppression, submission under heavy taxation, and a steady adherence to the Union, not so much from the benefits derived by us from that bond, as from affection for those who united us.

Col. D. could not speak lightly of the subject of disunion. He displayed the desolation that would inevitably follow to the manufacturing villages of the North upon such a step, deprecated any hasty action, but urge his hearers to set no ultimatum from which they should afterwards recede, and when all other things failed then was left the stern appeal--to arms.
 

From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 4, pp. 19-21. Transcribed from the Vicksburg Tri-Weekly Whig, May 10, 1849.

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