Jefferson Davis' Speech at Richmond
Spotswood Hotel, June 1, 1861
Friends and Fellow-Citizens:
I thank you for the compliment that your presence conveys. It is an indication of regard, not for the person, but for the position which he holds. The cause in which we are engaged is the cause of the advocacy of rights to which we were born, those for which our fathers of the Revolution bled--the richest inheritance that ever fell to man, and which it is our sacred duty to transmit untarnished to our children. Upon us is devolved the high and holy responsibility of preserving the Constitutional liberty of a free government. [Applause] Those with whom we have lately associated have shown themselves so incapable of appreciating the blessings of the glorious institutions they inherited, that they are to-day stripped of the liberty to which they were born. They have allowed an ignorant usurper to trample upon all the prerogatives of citizenship, and to exercise power never delegated to him; and it has been reserved for your own State, so lately one of the original thirteen, but now, thank God, fully separated from them, to become the theatre of a great central camp, from which will pour forth thousands of brave hearts to roll back the tide of this despotism. Apart from that gratification we may well feel at being separated from such a connection, is the pride that upon you devolves the task of maintaining and defending our new Government. I believe that we shall we able to achieve the noble work, and that the institutions of our fathers will go to our children as sacred as they have descended to us. [Applause.] In these Confederate States we observe those relations which have been poetically described to the United States, but which there never had the same reality--States so distinct that each existed as a sovereign, yet so united that each was bound with the other to constitute a whole; or, as more beautifully expressed, "Distinct as the billows, yet one as the sea." [Applause.] Upon every hill which now overlooks Richmond, you have had, and will continue to have, camps containing soldiers from every State in the Confederacy; and to its remotest limits every proud heart beats high with indignation at the thought that the foot of the invader has been set upon the soil of old Virginia. [Great cheering.] There is not one true son of the South who is not ready to shoulder his musket to bleed, to die or to conquer in the cause of liberty here. [Cheers.]
Beginning under many embarrassments, the result of 70 years of taxation being in the hands of our enemies, we must at first move cautiously. It may be that we shall have to encounter sacrifices; but, my friends, under the smiles of the God of the just, and filled with the same spirit that animated our fathers, success shall perch on our banners.--I am sure you do not expect me to go into any argument upon those questions which, for twenty five years, have agitated the country. We have now reached the point where arguments being exhausted, it only remains for us to stand by our arms. (Cheers, and cries of, we will.) When the time and occasion serve, we shall smite the smiter with manly arms, as did our fathers before us and as becomes their sons.--To them we leave the base acts of the assassin and incendiary--to them we leave it to insult helpless women; to us, belongs vengeance upon man. (Tremendous applause.)
Now, my friends, I thank you again for this gratifying manifestation. (A voice--tell us something about Buena Vista.)
Well, my friends, I can only say we will make the battle fields in Virginia another Buena Vista, and drench them with blood more precious than that shed there. We will make a history for ourselves. We do not ask that the past shall shed our lustre upon us, bright as our past has been, for we can achieve our own destiny. We may point to many a field, over which has floated the flag of our country when we were of the United States--upon which Southern soldiers and Southern officers reflected their brave spirits in their deeds of daring; and, without intending to cast a shadow upon the courage of any portion of the United States, let me call it to your remembrance, that no man who went from any of these Confederate States, has ever yet, as a general officer, surrendered to an enemy. (Great applause.)
Pardon me if I do not go into matters of history; and permit me, again, to thank you for this kind manifestation of your regard, to express to you my hearty wishes for the individual prosperity of you all, with the hope that you will all pray to God to crown our cause and our country with success.
From The Papers of Jefferson Davis, Volume 7, pp. 183-86. Transcribed from the Richmond Enquirer, June 4, 1861.