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 Frank Stringfellow

 
 P.O. Beauvoir, Harrison Co. Missi.
4th June 1878
My dear Sir,
 
Your very welcome letter of the 22d Ulto. has been received.  Few things could be more agreeable to me than to accept your invitation to visit you and to make the acquaintance of your Wife and the young hope of your house, but circumstances do not permit me at this time to enjoy that pleasure.
 
It is very gratifying to me to know that you, who were so severely tried and never found wanting should give a general and special approval of my course as the President of the Confederacy.  It might have been better as you suggest had I taken the field.  It was contemplated when Johnston retreated from Yorktown, but the duties of the Executive office were many & important, and to whom could they have been entrusted?  The vagaries on Military matters of the Vice President, and the lethargy & timidity of the President of the Senate, rendered each utterly unfit for the duty.  At a late period of the both were so despondent as to be willing to abandon the effort for independence and then I could not conscientiously have entrusted them with the powers of negociation.
 
Civil administration was not my preference and it was a disappointment to me when notified of my election by the provisional Congress as it took me from the head of the army of Mississippi, and put me in the office of provisional President.  A military training gave me some confidence in my ability to command troops, notwithstanding my years of political service I had no fondness for it and felt always a distaste for it's belongings.  The trial was to great and the result too doubtful to justify one in declining any post to which he was assigned, therefore I accepted.
 
I have often times combatted the idea of calm thoughtful men, that the failure of our righteous cause rendered doubtful the government of the world by an overrulling providence.  My answer has been first a question, has it failed?  Then the reminder that He who knows the hearts of men, requires not only that the cause should be righteous but also that it should be righteously defended, to be the object of His favor.  The immutable principles for which we contended must live, or republican government perish from among us.  Had we succeeded, how well and wisely would we have used our power, was made questionable by various manifestations in the last twelve months of the war.  Perhaps the furnace to which we have been subjected was necessary for our purification.  Has it not been shown by the result that we /were/ more right than even our own people generally knew?  And the world may now learn how faithless, dishonest, and barbarous our enemies were.  From such bad roots good plants may spring, and in the distant future, which lies beyond human vision, there may be consequences which will fully compensate for our present losses.  The high race of men who sprung from a governing class, and had their noble morals nurtured by care of dependents can hardly be expected in the changed condition of our section, but more self reliance and usefulness in the community work may be the sequence.
 
My labors in preparing reminiscences have been much obstructed by the loss of my books and papers.  Our people have been very reluctant to write so that my inquiries have met partial answers generally where I had hoped thus to supply the loss of documents by memoranda of events.  It was therefore with much joy that I received your offer of information, and realize the peculiar character your observations must have had.  Please give me as fully as your leisure hours will permit your recollection of matters & things which came under your view.  I am for the time, residing on the Gulf coast about midway between Mobile & New Orleans.  A way station is a short distance in rear of the house, Beauvoir, and it would be a great pleasure to me to receive you here.  Genl. Early spent the last Xmas with us.  Mrs. Davis joins me in affectionate regard for Mrs. Stringfellow and Miss Ida, with kindest remembrance of yourself — Ever sincerely your friend
 
Jefferson Davis
 
 
AL [partial] by V. Davis/ALS by Davis (ViU, Stringfellow Papers).

 

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The Papers of Jefferson Davis
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