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 welfare.
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 your friend,
From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 3, pp. 225-26. Transcribed from the Vicksburg Weekly Sentinel, October 6, 1947.