Jefferson Davis on Black Soldiers in Grey
Like many Southern leaders Jefferson Davis believed that the African should not be used for cannon-fodder in a war that they were not trained for, and that their agricultural work was far more important to keep the Southern field armies fed. Davis made it clear though, that should it come to subjugation by the enemy, he heartily endorsed the armed African in the ranks to help defend the homes of both races in the South.
Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"
Jefferson Davis on Black Soldiers in Grey:
“The act of February 17, 1864….which authorized the employment of slaves….brought forward….the question of employment of the negroes as soldiers in the army, which was warmly advocated by some as ardently opposed by others. My own views upon it were expressed freely and frequently in intercourse with members of Congress, and emphatically in my message of November 7, 1864…:
“The slave, however, bears another relation to the state – that of a person. Should he be retained in servitude, or should his emancipation be held out to him as a reward for past faithful service, or should it be granted at once on the promise of such service….The policy of engaging to liberate the negro on his discharge after service faithfully rendered seems to me preferable to that of granting immediate manumission, or that of retaining his servitude.
A broad moral distinction exists between the use of slaves as soldiers in defense of their homes and the incitement of the same persons to insurrection against their masters. The one is justifiable, if necessary, the other is iniquitous and unworthy of civilized people; and such is the judgment of all writers on public law, as well as that expressed and insisted on by our enemies in all wars prior to that now waged against us. [In 1776]….the climax of atrocity was deemed to be reached only when the English monarch was denounced as having “excited domestic insurrection among us.”
[I]…must dissent from those who advise a general levy and arming of the slaves for the duty of soldiers. Until our white population shall prove insufficient for the armies we require and can afford to keep in the field, to employ the slave as a soldier the negro, who has merely been trained to labor, and, as a laborer, the white man accustomed from his youth to the use of arms, would scarcely be deemed wise or advantageous by any; and this is the question now before us.
But should the alternative ever be presented of subjugation, or the employment of the slave as a soldier, there seems no reason to doubt what should then be our decision. Whether our view embraces what would, in so extreme a case, be the sum of misery entailed by the dominion of the enemy, or be restricted solely to the effect upon the welfare and happiness of the negro population themselves, the result would be the same.
[Our task has been]….that of Christianizing and improving the condition of the Africans who have by the will of Providence been placed in our charge. If the recommendation above, made for the training of forty thousand negroes for the service indicated, shall meet [the approval of the Confederate Congress], it5 is certain that even this limited number, by their preparatory training in intermediate duties, would form a valuable reserve force in case of urgency than threefold their number suddenly called from field-labor, while a fresh levy could to a certain extent supply their places in the special service for which they are now employed.”
Subsequent events advanced my views form a prospective to a present need for the enrollment of negroes to take their place in the ranks. To a member of the Senate…..I stated, as I had done to many others, the fact of having led [armed] negroes against a lawless body of armed white men, and the assurance which the experiment gave me that the might, under proper conditions, be relied on in battle, and finally used to him the expression which I believe I can repeat exactly: “If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone, “Died of a theory.”
(The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government, Volume I, Jefferson Davis, D. Appleton and Company, 1881, pp. 515-518)