Jefferson Davis on the South’s Future
“Mr. Davis once talked to me long and earnestly on the condition of the South. Among many other things, he said:
“If the South can establish a system of tenantry or get immigration to occupy and till its land there is no question but that it has a great future. Whether the colored people will ever reach that point is a question yet to be settled. Man is now in a struggle with nature upon these problems. There is no question but that the whites are better off for the abolition of slavery. It is an equally patent fact that the colored people are not. It is an arithmetical proposition easily determined that it is more profitable to proceed with free labor, where only the hand employed is to be paid, than where the whole family is to be supported to get the labor of those competent to work. Then there is also a saving in capital.
Before the War, when a colored man died, the owner lost between $1000 to $1500. Now he loses nothing, except perhaps the cost of burial. If the colored people shall develop a proper degree of thrift, and get a degree of education to keep pace with any advancement they may make, they may become a tenantry which will enable the South to rebuild the wasted places and become immensely wealthy. Negroes become greatly attached to localities, and most of them love to remain where they were raised. Almost all of our old servants are yet on the old plantation near Vicksburg. The colored people have many good traits, and many of them are religious. Indeed, the 4,000,000 in the South when the War began were Christianised from barbarism. In that respect the South has been a greater practical missionary than all the society missionaries in the world.
I had an old man, who, for the colored people in our section, was as complete a ruler as was ever born. He was as free from guile and as truthful a man as I ever knew. The Federal forces treated the old man with great indignity. He was a very superior servant, and his quarters where he lived were fitted up with taste, some people might say with luxury. He had everything about him for his comfort, and when the soldiers came and looked into his neat and well-furnished cabin they asked him who those things belonged to. “To me,” he answered. They denounced him as untruthful and said that he had taken those things to keep from his master, and took them away from him. “Nothing that was ever done to me, said Mr. Davis, made me so indignant as the treatment of this old colored man.”
“War was not necessary to the abolition of slavery” continued Mr. Davis. “Years before the agitation began at the North and the menacing acts to the institution, there was a growing feeling all over the South for its abolition. But for the Abolitionists of the North, both by publications and speech, cemented the South, and crushed the feeling for emancipation. Slavery could have been blotted out without the sacrifice of brave men and without the strain which revolution always makes upon established forms of government. I see it stated that I uttered the sentiment, or I indorsed it, that, “slavery is the cornerstone of the Confederacy.” That is not my utterance.
(The Condition of the South, A.G. Bancroft, Life and Death of Jefferson Davis, Crown Rights Books, 1999 (originally published 1889), pp. 152-154)