Struggles for Health and the South
On March 4, 1857, Jefferson Davis stepped to the Senate seat he had vacated at the call of his party six years before. Mississippi had vindicated him at last, wiping out his defeat by Foote. Much as he desired this, he had been as ready now as then “to offer up my political prospects.” He was told to be present when the legislature voted or expect defeat. But he told his friend Cocke that he did not think “intrigue and importunity” very potent, and “I am quite well aware that I have no capacity, even if I had the will, to make much of such means.” He could not ask for “consideration of my personal interest above that of the public good. This I know is sometimes called impracticable theory, and sometimes attributed to a vain assumption of superiority, but in my own case at least cannot be properly assigned to the latter cause.” This is the sort of thing that led Davis's fellows to remarkhis “purity, ” and a twentiethcentury writer to say, “He was very much the saint in politics.” 1
Davis was clear of a cabinet officer's “little carking cares” but plunged immediately into others. He was named chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs—an unprecedented tribute to his earlier handling of this post and his “ability and propriety” as secretary of war. The high regard for him was general. To a political foe, Henry Wilson, he was “the clear-headed, practical, dominating Davis.” William Hickling Prescott, a Northern historian then living, said that among all the great senators of that era, “Davis was the most accomplished.” 2
The incoming president, James Buchanan of Pennsylvania, knew Davis as a Southern leader of their party, and Davis had “affectionate regard” for him. Varina liked this older man, probably because he was “quickas a flash” in “polite repartee, ” as she was. His “fine presence”— very tall and blue-eyed—his “fair and delicate” complexion and perpetual “white cravat, faultlessly tied” prompted as her first thought, “how very clean he was.” 3
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Publication information: Book title: Jefferson Davis, Unconquerable Heart. Contributors: Felicity Allen - Author. Publisher: University of Missouri Press. Place of publication: Columbia, MO. Publication year: 1999. Page number: 225.
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