Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 06.djvu/175

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Address of Honorable Jefferson Davis.

and unshaken, through the severe ordeal to which it has been subjected.

Without desire for a political future, only anxious for the supremacy of the truths on which the Union was founded, and which I believe to be essential to the prosperity and the liberties of the people, it is little to assume that I shall die, as I have lived, firm in the State rights faith.

In other times and places I have discussed the right of a State to withdraw from the Union, and will not repeat the argument on this occasion.

Suffice it to say, the historical facts from which the right is deducible can only be overthrown by the demolition of the principles on which the government of our fathers was ordained and established. The independence and sovereignty of the State carried with it the obligation of the allegiance of the citizen to his State. To refuse to defend it when invaded would be treason. To respond to its call and go forth with those who "hung the banner on the outer wall," was a legal duty and obligation to his home, and all it held dear—alike binding on the father, the brother, the son and the citizen. The propriety of engaging in war is a question open to debate; but, when it has been entered on, to shrink from its trials and responsibilities is a crime, which in all ages has been denounced by the patriotic and the brave.

It is questionable whether war is ever justifiable except for defence, and then it is surely a duty. No calling or condition in life exempts the citizen from service where his countrymen think he can be useful. Thus the good Bishop Polk reasoned before entering the army, after solemn meditation and prayer, for he told me, before doing so, that he regarded the war as pro aris et focis, and that his calling required rather than excluded him from serving, wherever and however he was most needed. This holy man, with pious thought, buckled on his sword, and how heroically he bore himself on many battle fields, you, the survivors of the Army of Tennessee, can best bear witness. Throughout his arduous service he continued his ministerial functions, instructing as well by precept as example, while, ever mindful of Him in whose hands is the destiny of man, he prayerfully invoked God's favor on the righteous cause he righteously supported. When he fell on the field of battle, slain, like pious Abel, by his brother, the earth never drank nobler blood than his, and no purer spirit ever ascended to the Father.

Martyrdom has generally been accepted, and surely with reason, as proof of the sanctity of the cause for which the martyr died. Time would not serve to enumerate even a small part of the examples furnished by your prayerful army, of pious service and pious death in battle, but pride and affection will not allow me to leave them all to silent memory. The Greek who defended the pass and the Roman who held for a time the bridge have been immortalized in song and story. Yet neither of these performed a more heroic deed than did Tilghman, the commander of Fort