On this day: President Jefferson Davis

On this day, 150 years ago, at Montgomery, Alabama: "Hon. Jefferson Davis, of Mississippi, is unanimously elected President of the Confederate States of North America, and Hon. A. H. Stephens, of Georgia, elected Vice-President, unanimously."

Click http://www.newsinhistory.com/blog/confederacy-gets-its-man-jefferson-davis-elected-president> here for some contemporary newspaper accounts.

Jefferson Davis was a West Point graduate who had served his country in the Mexican War, represented Mississippi in the House of Representatives, was twice elected United States Senator from Mississippi, and served as Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. When Mississippi seceded from the Union, Davis resigned from the Senate and returned home to preside over the Rebellion.

When he was eight years old, his parents sent him to St. Thomas of Aquin College at St. Rose Priory in Springfield, Kentucky. He studied there for two years.

"Although Davis's parents were Baptists, his boarding school exposure to Roman Catholicism promoted 'ecumenical thinking,' which helps explain his opposition in the 1850s to the anti-Catholic 'clap-trap of Know-Nothingism' and the nativist American Party."

--At the Precipice: Americans North and South during the Secession Crisis, by Shearer Davis Bowman, University of North Carolina Press, 2010, p. 163.

Jefferson Davis was a slaveholder. The 1850 Slave Schedule lists his 53 slaves, not by name, but by age and gender. He held 29 slaves 18 and older, and 24 slaves who were 12 and younger.

The 1860 Slave Schedule lists 115 slaves held by Davis, including one whose name -- Robert -- is recorded. Robert was 104. In addition, Davis held 22 slaves 5 and younger; 40 slaves 6 to 16; 40 slaves 18 to 36; 10 slaves 37 to 72; one slave 85; and one slave 90.

Alexander Stephens was also a slaveholder. The 1850 Slave Schedule lists 13 slaves. He held 6 slaves 26 to 55, and 7 slaves 15 and under.

The 1860 Slave Schedule lists 27 slaves held by Stephens. He held 3 slaves 16 and under; 23 slaves 18 to 63; and 1 slave 80.


Just a few weeks after their election, Vice-President Alexander Stephens, in a speech at Savannah, characterized the Confederacy:

". . . its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. [Applause.] This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here