Friday, February 18, 2011

Jefferson Davis's Inaugural Address

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Today is the 150th anniversary of Jefferson Davis's inaugural in Montgomery, Alabama. He gave his speech from the steps of the Alabama statehouse - today there is a marker indicating the very spot...a spot that Alabama Governor George Wallace would later use to say a few choice words about segregation.

We are all pretty well versed on Lincoln's First Inaugural - lets see what Davis had to say. He speaks a lot about the "government of our fathers in its spirit," suggesting an overall conservative path for the new Confederate States of which seems likely for a democratic republic conceived in opposition to the progressive nature (or - if you like - the perceived progressive nature) of the recently elected Lincoln administration.

What he doesn't speak of is slavery. At least not in so many words. But he does allude to the issue together with the sectional split. Check it out -  The Confederate Constitution (drafted only a few days prior to this event), he said, “differ[s] 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.”

Of course, the "well known intent" of the fathers, by Davis's estimation, was the protection of slavery. Yep - that's the little thing that the fathers intentionally left out of the United States Constitution - the word slavery anyway.

This is something that Confederates were certain to take care of right out of the gate. Oh sure, their constitution was pretty much a copy of the US one, with a few notable exceptions. Whereas there were no mentions of slavery in the US Constitution, the Rebs made it crystal clear exactly where they stood on the slavery issues...ten times to be exact.  This one passage alone left little room for interpretation: “No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed.”

But still - Davis only alluded to this in his inaugural speech...he didn't mention anything about the protection of "our domestic institutions" - something that he spoke of often. This speech's focus was on the hard times ahead - more than anything else. "It is joyous in the midst of perilous times to look around upon a people united in heart, where one purpose of high resolve animates and actuates the whole; where the sacrifices to be made are not weighed in the balance against honor and right and liberty and equality. Obstacles may retard, but they cannot long prevent, the progress of a movement sanctified by its justice and sustained by a virtuous people."

There is nothing particularly exciting about this speech - no memorable lines, no slam dunks, no moments of great statesmanship. I wonder what his audience thought as they set out to carve a new nation from the old...maybe kind of let down????



1 comment:

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Keith Harris, emilyhill indie. emilyhill indie said: RT @MKeithHarris: He's no Abraham Lincoln...that's or sure. [...]