Jefferson Davis Pleads for Peace


On January 10, 1861, Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi challenged his fellow United States Senators of the North to exhibit sufficient leadership to avert a coming war.  They would not, nor did
President-elect Lincoln who avoided any talk of legislative compromise with the South in order to hold the disparate factions of his purely-sectional party together – party over country.

Bernhard Thuersam, Chairman
North Carolina War Between the States Sesquicentennial Commission
"The Official Website of the North Carolina WBTS Sesquicentennial"


Jefferson Davis Pleads for Peace:

“Senator [Jefferson] Davis would speak for the South. He was still Senator, still its spokesman. Mississippi had not yet officially notified him of her action yesterday.

“Events, with a current hurrying on as it progresses, have borne me past the point where it would be useful for me to argue the question of rights.

What, Senators, today is the condition of the country? From every quarter of it comes the wailing cry of patriotism pleading for the preservation of the great inheritance we derived from our fathers. Tears are now trickling down the stern face of man; and those who have bled for the flag of their country, and are willing now to die for it, stand powerless before the plea that the [Republican] party about to come into power laid down a platform, and that come what will, though ruin stare us in the face, consistency must be adhered to, even though the Government be lost.

Why should not the garrison at Fort Sumter be withdrawn, if it would ease the tension and save bloodshed? And as for the flag:

Is there any point of pride which prevents us from withdrawing that garrison? I have heard it said by a gallant gentleman that the great objection was an unwillingness to lower the flag. To lower the flag!

Can there, then, be a point of pride so sacred a soil as this, where the blood of the fathers cries to Heaven against civil war? Can there be a point of pride against laying upon the sacred soil today the flag for which our fathers died? My pride, Senators, is different.

My pride is that the flag shall not set between contending brother; and that, when it shall no longer be the common flag of the country, it shall be folded up and laid away like a vesture no longer used; that it shall be kept as a scared memento of the past, to which each of us can make a pilgrimage, and remember the glorious days in which we were born.

I have striven to avert that catastrophe which now impends over the country, unsuccessfully, and I regret it. If you desire at this last moment to avert civil war, so be it; it is better so.

If you will not have it thus; if the pride of power, if in contempt of reason and reliance on force, you say we shall not go, but shall remain as subjects to you, gentlemen of the North, a war is to be inaugurated the like of which men have not seen.

Is there wisdom, is there patriotism in the land? If so, easy must be the solution to the question. If not, then Mississippi’s gallant sons will stand like a wall of fire around their State….”

(Congress and the Civil War, Edward Boykin, McBride Company, 1955, pp. 269-271)