The War Between the States Sesquicentennial—Necessity Forced Separation
The State of Mississippi withdrew from the American Union on January 9, 1861 and notified its United States Senator, Jefferson Davis, that he no longer had business to conduct in Washington. Notified of this, on January 24, Davis delivered his farewell address to the Senate and proceeded to his home State and a position as commander in chief of Mississippi’s armed forces with the rank of major-general. Shortly afterward he found himself called the presidency of a more perfect union.
Bernhard Thuersam, Director
Cape Fear Historical Institute
The War Between the States Sesquicentennial:
Necessity Forced Separation:
“On February 9
In this inaugural address, among other things, he said: “Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprecedented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea that government rests upon the consent of the governed, and that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they become destructive of the ends for which they were established. The declared purpose of the compact of the Union from which we have withdrawn was to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;” and when, in the judgment of the sovereign States composing this Confederacy, it has been perverted from the purposes for which it was ordained, and ceased to answer the ends for which it was established, a peaceful appeal to the ballot box declared that, so far as they are concerned, the government created by that compact should cease to exist.
In this they merely asserted the right which the Declaration of Independence of July 4, 1776, defined to be “inalienable.” Of the time and occasion of its exercise they as sovereigns were the final judges, each for itself. The impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct; and He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we have labored to preserve the government of our fathers in its spirit.
The right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the United States, and which has been solemnly affirmed and reaffirmed in the Bills of Rights of the States subsequently admitted into the Union of 1789, undeniably recognizes in the people the power to resume the authority delegated for the purposes of government. Thus the sovereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Confederacy; and it is by abuse of language that their act has been denominated a revolution.
They formed a new alliance, but within each State its government has remained; so that the rights of person and property have not been disturbed. The agent through which they communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not necessarily interrupt their international relations.
We have entered upon the career of independence, and it must be inflexibly pursued. Through many years of controversy with our late associates of the Northern States we have vainly endeavored to secure tranquility and obtain respect for the rights to which we were entitled. As a necessity, not a choice, we have resorted to the remedy of separation, and henceforth our energies must be directed to the conduct of our own affairs, and the perpetuity of the Confederacy which we have formed. If a just perception of mutual interest shall permit us peaceably to pursue our separate political career, my most earnest desire will have been fulfilled.
But if this is denied to us, and the integrity of our territory and jurisdiction assailed, it will but remain for us with firm resolve to appeal to arms and invoke the blessings of Providence on a just cause. With a Constitution differing only from that of our fathers in so far as it is explanatory of their well-known intent, freed from sectional conflicts, which have interfered with the pursuit of the general welfare, it is not unreasonable to expect that the States from which we have recently parted may seek to unite their fortunes to ours under a government which we have instituted.”
(A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Confederacy, James D. Richardson, United States Publishing Company, 1904, pp. 20-21)