Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/378

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

370 SnHf/HTH Ilixtorii-al ,s'or/V///

it had burst the old constitutional rocks asunder on sectional lines and issues. The South was fighting against the stars in their courses. But, standing on this sacred spot, I should be false to the memory of the dead if I did not remind you that he, the man we all adore, bat- tled for the constitutional right to dissolve the Union, not for revolu- tion, not for slavery that the war was fought upon a legal, not a moral, issue, and it is significant that slavery is not mentioned, either in the Confederate inaugural or in Lincoln's Gettysburg address.

It is a pleasant reflection to-day that the feelings which human nature cannot repress in the sad hour of defeat have found the gentle and sure medicine of time. A new generation has risen underneath the healing wings of peace that are strangers to the discord of their fathers, and the gray-haired veterans of Gettysburg and Chicka- mauga, conscious of their rectitude of purpose and lofty patriotism, now yield loyal allegiance to the government, not having disowned their manhood, or with servility confessed that they were wrong. They have preserved their self-respect and won the respect of the nation.

For what, then, shall this monument stand? Jefferson Davis was truly through his life the representative of his people, and the monu- ment represents the love of the Southern people for him. Such a sentiment honors them even more than it honors him. It demon- strates the faithfulness of the Southern people to their leader, for better or for worse. Rather than suspected is that people to be honored and trusted whose attachments defy the vicissitudes of time and fortune, and reach in loving fortitude beyond the grave.


Let us consider on this occasion the reasons for our love for Jeffer- son Davis, and why we honor him. First, above all, he is dear to us for the incomparable beauty of his character. It is a joy to the South that its typical figures of a generation ago, such as Davis, Lee, and Jackson, were men who wore the white flower of a blameless life men of clean lips and spotless names. It will not surprise you when I add they were each of them of strong Christian faith. Permit me to quote the words of two distinguished men who knew Jefferson Davis most intimately in official as well as private life: "Standing here by his open grave, and in all probability not far from my own," said George Davis, of North Carolina, Attorney-General of the Con- federacy, "I declare to you that he was the most honest, truest, gentlest, tenderest, manliest man I ever knew." " I knew Jefferson