The Etiquette of Race Relations in the South: A Study in Social Control

By Bertram Wilbur Doyle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THE ETIQUETTE OF RACE RELATIONS DEFINED

IN THE Memoirs of Jefferson Davis, published by his widow, Mrs. Varina Davis, there is reproduced the following letter:

CHRISTINE, NORTH DAKOTA

December 1, 1889

MISS VARINA:

I have watched with deep interest and solicitude the illness of Mr. Davis at Brierfield, his trip down on the steamer Leathers, and your meeting and returning with him to the residence of Mr. Payne, in New Orleans; and I had hoped that with good nursing and superior medical skill, together with his great will- power to sustain him, he would recover. But, alas! for human endeavor, an over-ruling Providence has willed it otherwise. I appreciate your great loss, and my heart goes out to you in this hour of your deepest affliction. Would that I could help you bear the burden that is yours today. Since I am powerless to do so, I beg that you accept my sympathy and condolence.

Your very obedient servant,

THORNTON

To MRS. JEFFERSON DAVIS, Beauvoir, Mississippi1

The context explains the circumstances in which the letter was written, but one not familiar with the customs and traditions of the South, before and since the Civil War, could not quite understand the form of address--"Miss Varina"--used by a former slave in a letter addressed to the wife of the former president of the Confederate States.

The "Thornton" of the letter was Thornton Montgomery,

-1-

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