Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/24
1.2 Southern Historical Society Papers.
ness for polemical discussion, in which his keen logic and rare faculty of expression made him a master. I have heard those who knew them both, and were ardent admirers of the younger and more dis- tinguished brother, express doubt as to whether the elder was not even his superior in intellectual powers.
Jefferson Davis was a man of similar tastes and temperament. He had always been a student. Those who knew him during his army life attest that he always evinced a contemptuous aversion to the common dissipations and frivolities of the camp, and that whenever not engaged in active duty he devoted himself to diligent and in- structive reading.
These two congenial spirits thus thrown together in their rustic seclusion, employed the large leisure which the planter's life of that day afforded, in eager and systematic intellectual culture and train- ing. They read everything and they discussed everything. Their constant exchange of ideas and impressions on every variety of sub- jects, enlarged and precised their knowledge, and the frequent clashes of their minds in keen debate fixed the clearness and cer- tainty of their convictions, and developed the power of enforcing them by logical exposition and copious argument and illustration.
From this veritable gymnasium, Jefferson Davis emerged at the end of seven years, a trained intellectual athlete, with all the mus- cles of his mind perfectly developed and thoroughly fit for any ser- vice which might be thrown upon them.
No one who knew Mr. Davis in after years could fail to be im- pressed with the extraordinary range, accuracy, and variety of his knowledge on all kinds of subjects, or to wonder how, in so active a life, he had found time to gain it.
All equally wondered at the marvelous aptness and power as an orator and debater, displayed from the very opening of his public career by a man whose previous life had been passed in active mili- tary service on the frontier, and afterwards in the seclusion of rural life.
These marvels are no doubt accounted for in part by his great nat- ural gifts, but also in large degree by the results of these fruitful years which he passed in study, discussion and debate with his gifted brother.
Amongst the subjects which engaged their special attention were political economy, political history and philosophy, and especially the Constitution of the United States, its history, its construction and the true theory and nature of the government established