Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 24.djvu/379

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Davis as I knew few men," said Benjamin Hill, Georgia's -nut senator. "I have been near him in his public duties; I have seen him by his private fireside; I have witnessed his humble devotion*, and I challenge the judgment of history when I say no people \\ ever led through the fiery struggle for liberty by a nobler, truer patriot, while the carnage of war and the trials of public life never revealed a purer or more beautiful Christian character."

Jefferson Davis stood the test of true greatness, he was the great- est to those who knew him best. One of the marked traits of Mr. Davis' private life was his exquisite courtesy. He was one of the most approachable of men, as polite and affable to the humblest as to the most exalted. In his old age in Raleigh, N. C., he excused himself to all callers, in order to receive the visit of his former slave. It is characteristic of the man that he closed his farewell address to the Senate by apologizing for any pain which, in the heat of discussion, he might have inflicted. His last words on earth were, " Please ex- cuse me. " Such gentleness usually marks a man of courage. On a memorable occasion he uttered the characteristic maxim, "Never be haughty to the humble, nor humble to the haughty."

We remember how, at Buena Vista, although painfully wounded, he refused to quit his saddle until the victory, so largely due to his o\vn heroism, was won; how, in the the battles around Richmond A. P. Hill, that gallant and spotless soldier, twice ordered General Lee and President Davis to the rear. Mr. Davis was utterly without fear for himself. Notwithstanding the attempt made on his life at Richmond, he never had an escort. But I must correct myself, for on one occasion an unknown Confederate boy-soldier followed the President alone from the lines around Richmond to the city, to watch over his safety, and to die, if need be, for his sake. This youth but gave expression to the heart of the South at that moment.


The dominant characteristic of Mr. Davis was his fidelity to prin- ciple. It was well said of him, " He bent to none but God." He came among us as a Roman born out of time. It was impossible for him to ask pardon, so long as he felt he had done his duty con- scientiously as he saw it, and he was never forgiven. One after another his great comrades entered the Beyond until he stood alone, but he never wavered. He passed from us a stern and majestic figure, broken, but never bent. " In official life," said Senator Reagan, his Postmaster-General, "he knew no word but duty." A