Jefferson Davis: The Unreal and the Real - Vol. 1

Jefferson Davis: The Unreal and the Real - Vol. 1

Jefferson Davis: The Unreal and the Real - Vol. 1

Jefferson Davis: The Unreal and the Real - Vol. 1

Excerpt

A biographer, writing as he does for a generation later than that in which his character lived, must have regard to the interests and ethical standards of that generation, and, as these alter with changing generations, the life of every leader must be written again and again; with each new writing there must be new points of emphasis, a new use of evidence. Jefferson Davis was conscious of this when he wrote: "If history as now written is accepted, it will consign the South to infamy." He was confident, however, that later generations would do justice to his moral rectitude, and that of the millions who followed him. "We do not fear the verdict of posterity on the purity of our motives, or the sincerity of our belief," he assured Bishop Galloway; and to another friend he said, "In asserting the right of Secession . . . I recognize the fact that the war showed it to be impracticable, but this did not prove it to be wrong." He was even confident that the basic issue of the Civil War, which he interpreted, not as slavery, but as the right of each State to determine the conditions upon which it would remain in the union, was "bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form"; and no one can doubt that this principle has so reasserted itself. Woodrow Wilson restated it in the brilliant phrase, "the right of men everywhere to choose their own ways of peace and of obedience." The British Commonwealth of Nations, and the League of Nations both definitely assert that any member State may "depart in peace," if the union fails to maintain conditions which satisfy it; and peaceful secessions have already tested this right, and confirmed it.

This inevitable change of standard was evident during Davis'

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