Andrew Johnson: A Study in Courage

By Lloyd Paul Stryker | Go to book overview

XXXVIII
JEFFERSON DAVIS

TWENTY years before Sinclair Lewis began holding up the national mirror to "George Babbitt," Senator Hoar of Massachusetts wrote feelingly of the "standardizing influences of our age." He found his fellow Northern statesmen dull. "You could not," he said, "read the story of their public career without going to sleep." While he expressed respect for them he added: "I would as lief spend my life as an omnibus horse as live theirs."1 But though he had in Congress many bitter contests with the "Southern brigadiers," he wrote: "It so happens that some of the best and most attractive men I have known were from the South."2

Whatever emotions may be stirred by following the annals of the Confederacy, boredom will not be one of them. The charm and courage of her women, the stately poise and valor of her men,--these as in the chivalric chapters of Scott's romance-- mark every page of her tragic story. Jefferson Davis had less of personal magnetism than many of his associates in the "Lost Cause," but he was a man of sensitive honor, of complete integrity and unquestionable sincerity. He was loyal to the principles which seemed to him as true as those for which Washington was ready, if need be, to embrace a traitor's fate.

From January 21st, 1861, Davis was something of a problem to Lincoln; he became almost as great a one to Johnson. Now in the late summer of 1866 he was still a prisoner at Fortress Monroe where he had been confined since May of the previous year. What was to be done with him? To the North he was the living embodiment of treason, the target for the accumulated hates of four years of civil strife.

Jefferson Davis had no love for Johnson. When on May 10th, 1865, Davis was captured by James Wilson's cavalry and was

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