The Papers of Jefferson Davis
 
The Papers of Jefferson Davis

Watercolor on ivory by George L. Saunders 1840s National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

Jefferson Davis to J. William Jones

Private 
New Orleans La  10th May 1876

My dear Sir,
 
I have felt deeply grateful to you for the bold manner in which you have vindicated the cause and conduct of the Confederacy.  It has not only grieved but discouraged me to note the expressions of southern Editors in regard to Mr. Hill’s response to Blaines slanders.  Some treat it as though Hill had disturbed the harmony of the country by introducing an angry discussion, others refer to his defence as unfortunate.  How is it expected that error will be corrected, if truth may not be opposed to falsehood.  Those who have been prejudiced against us by malignant fictions, must be confirmed in their bad opinion, if our Representatives sit silent when the South is traduced and charged with the very offences the North has committed.  The inventive genius of the Yankees has produced little if any thing, but has only nomine mutata related their own barbaraties and crimes.
 
The fearful strides of recantation by Southern men, fills me with dread as to the effect on posterity.
 
Therefore I repeat I am deeply grateful to you for efforts to preserve the truth, and leave to our children the landmarks of a political creed which should not die, and a record of their Fathers’ deeds which may inspire them with high aspirations.
 
Several times I have seen references to Jones’ diary kept when a Clerk in the War office at Richmond.
 
I have not seen the book and hope he has been misquoted.  For instance he is cited as authority for the statement that a proposition to assassinate Lincoln was sent through the War office to me, and was not rebuked by me.  I hope no one pretending to be a Confederate has so basely lied.  I saw a publication some years since, made by Col. Alston, of Genl. Morgan’s staff, in which it was related that an officer of Morgan’s command sent to me an offer of his services to go secretly and kill Presdt. Lincoln & that I had endorsed on it an order to put the officer under arrest and bring him before a Court Martial.
 
I cut the letter out of a Newspaper, to preserve it, but the unsettled life I have led, has so scattered my papers that I do not know where it is, and therefore cannot hope to send it to you.
 
When the effort was made to inculpate me with the assassination of Mr. Lincoln, that story, and another of what I said when the report of Mr. Lincoln’s death reached me, were fictitious material out of which it was hoped to criminate me.  One of the several attempts to assassinate me, was made by a man who was arrested by means employed by Col. W. Preston Johnston, and there was satisfactory though circumstancial evidence that he was a hired emissary sent from the North.  So not even in this, was there need to exercise invention in framing their accusation.
 
I have been led away from the train of thought which prompted me to write to you to night.
 
If it be meet and proper that the Representatives of the South should be silent when their constituents are traduced, and the honorable conduct of Southern men both in peace and in War is put in issue, far better for our fame and for the hope of justice being done to our memories, when all who struggled for constitutional liberty shall be dust, far better, that none should be there whose duty it was, in fact, to represent us.
 
And if the newspapers of our section, are to be muzzled, lest some one should take offence at a bare statement to refute slander against the cause of our Fathers, gallantly upheld by their sons, whose widows & orphans appeal to the living for justice to the dead, it were indeed a pity that they should be left as material for the future historian to form his judgement in regard to the actors in our glorious, though unsuccessful struggle.  The few who wield the spear of truth, may I pray leave enough to show that this silence was the result of decadence12 of the tone which sustained our people in War, and the substitution of that which Genl. Chas. Lee called “the rascally virtue”.  With sincere regard and esteem I am yours faithfully
 
Jefferson Davis

 

ALS (Vi, Jones Papers).

How to Reach Us

The Papers of Jefferson Davis
Rice University--MS 43
P.O. Box 1892
Houston, Texas 77251-1892
Phone: (713) 348-4990
Fax: (713) 348-4383
E-mail: davis@rice.edu