A Student of History

June 24, 2008

Birthday cake for a failed “leader”

Filed under: Early America,The strange place called the South — John Maass @ 12:50 pm

 This Jeff Davis birthday stuff is really nutty.  I think it is OK to recall the man and his place in history, as long as it is done objectively, authentically, and in historical context.  But the stuff we see in the South not only glorifies a traitor, it is just twisted.  One article will illustrate this point.

For instance, in Alabama folks just marked the JD birthday with festivities including a period ball.  No problem there, it may be a fun way to observe an historical event.  But JD’s great-grandson had this to say about his ancestor: 

“His contributions to this country and the leadership that he personifies place Jef­ferson Davis as one of the most influential statesmen and leaders of his time,” in a message printed in the event’s offi­cial program.

Contributions to this country?  I wonder which country he meant–the USA or the CSA?  And I like his statement that Davis was a leader.  If that means leading several states out of the union to defend slavery and thus provoke a war that killed 600,000 men, then yes, he is a leader.  But if leadership means successfully working out political solutions to avoid civil war, then JD is a flat failure.

We also learn in the article that during a program at the Capitol auditorium, emcee Tyrone Crowley of Prattville called Davis “one of the great Americans of all time.”  Again, what the hell is he called great for?  He was an absolute failure at the helm of the CSA, and in his relations with most of his generals he was petty, self-righteous, vindictive, stubborn…  What makes him a great American?  One of the participants in all of this commemoratin’ stated that several people “were unhappy about the size of the crowd and wondered why more weren’t on hand to honor Davis.”

Gee, I wonder why…..


  1. “What makes him a great American?”

    From the Museum of the Confederacy’s website:

    “Many only know Davis as the political leader of the South during the Civil War. His commission to West Point by President Andrew Jackson, his tenure with the U.S. Army, and his time spent in the U.S. politics all contribute to the depth of Davis’s life and patriotic career.”

    and . . .

    “. . . he was educated at West Point and served in the U.S. Military, fought in the Mexican War, was a U.S. Congressman and Senator from Mississippi, and served as Secretary of War for President Franklin Pierce.”

    The Museum of the Confederacy is celebrating Davis’s birthday as well. See:

    Comment by Richard Williams — June 24, 2008 @ 3:19 pm | Reply

  2. Sorry, but the CSA thing negates all that other stuff. He tried to dissolve the Union, and was one of the worst eladers in political history.

    Comment by John Maass — June 25, 2008 @ 7:03 am | Reply

  3. John:

    I don’t disagree that Davis was terrible at governing, but he served the United States with honor prior to secession. Labeling Southerners who believed (as did most of the Founders)that it was legal and constitutional to secede as “traitors” has no basis in fact.

    Moreover, to do so would suggest that we’ve named Army bases, Aircraft Carriers, Destroyers, cities, highways, schools, parks, businesses, etc. after “traitors.” That’s quite a stretch.

    Comment by Richard Williams — June 25, 2008 @ 9:14 am | Reply

  4. You say Davis was simply a traitor, but I say he was a complex patriot. I personally believe that our country would be much stronger if more men were willing to stand up for their convictions and tell the U.S. government where they can go… Even our Founding Fathers would applaud the act of hostile insurrection when it is the only alternative for liberty. Looking at the two presidential candidates that we have to pick from, it may be one of our only options to save America in the future. I pray not.

    Comment by Michael Aubrecht — June 25, 2008 @ 4:02 pm | Reply

  5. Michael & Richard-thanks for the comments. JM

    Comment by John Maass — June 26, 2008 @ 5:21 am | Reply

  6. John:

    You’re welcome. I very much enjoy reading your blog. I agree with you more times than not. Keep up the good work.


    Comment by Richard Williams — June 26, 2008 @ 6:52 am | Reply

  7. I second my friend Richard’s sentiments John. I don’t always agree (like here), but I do enjoy your insights Also reading my first post back… please don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not a radical here, I was merely pointing out that Davis’ anti-govt. sentiment mirrors (IMO) the notion that the Founding Fathers had that the people had to keep the government in check – and that we have failed miserably in that regard during our lifetime.

    Comment by Michael Aubrecht — June 26, 2008 @ 8:26 am | Reply

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