[CIVIL WAR]. DAVIS, Jefferson (1808-1889), President of the Confederate States of America. Autograph letter signed ("Jefferson Davis"), to A. A. Blandy, Memphis, Tenn., 7 January 1870. 4 pages, 4to, remnants of tipping at corners.
"TO CALL THIS A UNION OF STATES IS A MOCKERY, ONLY EQUALED BY CALLING IT A CONSTITUTIONAL REPUBLIC"
AN EXCEPTIONAL LETTER REGARDING RECONSTRUCTION AND BLACK SUFFRAGE. From head of state to insurance salesman--the once mighty President of the Confederacy has fallen far in this letter, written just months after his return to America from his two years of exile spent in Europe, Canada and Cuba. He describes his journey to New Orleans by way of Baltimore and Havana. At New Orleans he surveyed the desolation of his once-opulent plantation. "From the wreck of my property it was impossible to realize anything immediately, and very little if anything ultimately. So feeling like Death in the conversation with Dr. Hornbrook, the necessity for doing something for my bread, I accepted the best offer which was made to me and am President of a Life Insurance Co." He then offers some fascinating reflections on the effects of Reconstruction: "The condition of the country is improving in a material aspect, but of its political condition the less said the better. You will have seen the action in the case of Georgia and that suffices to show you how complete the revolution is. To call this a Union of States is a mockery, only equaled by calling it a Constitutional Republic. Yesterday they had here an election for the Mayor, the Negroes were paraded and marched to the polls to vote as ordered but being in a minority they behaved quietly. The Mayor elect was the nominee of the Democratic party & is said to be worthy of the position. This is a fine town, and the Confederate sentiment controls as well in business as in society. It is the largest interior cotton market and if there was enough of banking capital would have direct trade through Norfolk to England..."
The "case of Georgia" refers to the reimposition of direct military rule by Washington following a wave of Klan violence and the resurgence of former Confederates in the state legislature. Attacks against black voters and elected officials spiked during 1867 and 1868, as lawmakers drafted a new state constitution. Seven members of the convention were murdered. In September 1868 unreconstructed Confederates expelled 28 black members from the Georgia legislature, and the following March rescinded the state's ratification of the 14th Amendment. In response, Congress refused to seat the state's Senators or Representatives, and reimposed martial law under the command of General Alfred Terry in December 1869. Davis's personal fortunes fared no better. He resigned from the Carolina Life Insurance Co. during the 1873 depression, and even his reelection to the Senate in 1875 failed when he refused to swear the oath of allegiance called for by the 14th Amendment and Senate leaders blocked his admission. A fine political letter from the most unreconstructed of the old Confederates.