Montgomery, Alabama, February 20, 1861
…I have been so crowded and pressed that the first wish to write to you has been thus long deferred.
I was inaugurated on Monday, having reached here on Saturday night. The audience was large and brilliant. Upon my weary heart was showered smiles, plaudits, and flowers; but, beyond them, I saw troubles and thorns innumerable.
We are without machinery, without means, and threatened by a powerful opposition; but I do not despond, and will not shrink from the task imposed upon me.
All along the route, except when in Tennessee, the people at evert station manifested good-will and approbation by bonfires at night, firing by day; shouts and salutations in both.
I thought it would have gratified you to have witnessed it, and have been a memory to our children.
Thus I constantly wish to have you all with me… Here I was interrupted by the Secretary of the Congress, who brought me two bills to be approved. This is a gay [happy] and handsome town of some eight thousand inhabitants, and will not be an unpleasant residence. As soon as an hour is my own, I will look for a house and write to you more fully…
~Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, to his wife
President of the Confederacy
After making his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate and resigning his post in Washington D.C., Jefferson Davis went to his home Mississippi. He didn’t want a prominent role in the Confederate government, hoping instead for a battlefield command. Davis had battlefield experience and military heroism already from the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). However, the fledging Confederate government had other ideas – Davis was one of the few eligible men not at the government convention to turn down the offer of president…and so he got the position.
Though distressed at the thought of leaving his family and entering a very public political arena, Davis obeyed the summons to Montgomery, Alabama, and was duly sworn in as president of the provisional government on February 18, 1861. The executive office would prove a great challenge for Davis in the next four years.
The Confederate Capital
The delegates at the Southern Convention, which was forming the Confederate government, met in Montgomery, Alabama, and selected that city as the first capitol of the Confederate States of America.
However, in June 1861 – shortly after the seceded state of Virginia formally joined the Confederacy – the capitol was moved to Richmond, Virginia. The government officials moved to the new city. President Davis and his family also made the trek to second capital.
In a moment when many men would’ve been blissfully triumphant, Davis was apprehensive about his new positive as president. He was determined to succeed and do his best, but he was wise enough to see that a perfect future did not await the Confederacy.
Davis specifically mentions the lack of industrial power and machinery in the south; they would be dependent on trade with Europe for many of the supplies to wage war. He also recognized there was “powerful opposition” against this Confederacy and probably foresaw the evitable coming war.
Yet he determined to not to “shrink from the task” he had been unwillingly assigned. Whether we agree with Davis’s politics or not, it is worth considering the extremely lonely and thorny road that he foresaw…and his courage to continue with what he had been asked to do.
P.S. We’ve talked about the Confederacy and Davis for a couple weeks… (Northern perspectives coming up next week, I promise!) But do you think Davis and Lincoln might have had similar feelings as they approached national leadership in 1861? Why or why not?
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