DAVIS, JEFFERSON. Letter signed ("Jeffer Davis"), also signed by JUDAH P. BENJAMIN, STEPHEN R. MALLORY, JOHN SLIDELL, Alfred Iverson, Benjamin Fitzpatrick, LEWIS T. WIGFALL, John Hemphill and D.L. Yulee, to Isaac W. Hayne, "Washington City," 15 January 1861. 5 pages, 4to, small tear to bottom left corner, otherwise fine.
DAVIS ADVISES THAT FORT SUMTER SHOULD NOT BE ATTACKED, AND LOOKS FORWARD TO THE FORMATION OF THE CONFEDERACY
A remarkable political letter, at a crucial juncture, just prior to Lincoln's assuming office, while the crisis of Fort Sumter worsened. Here, Davis and a number of prominent secessionists urge that South Carolina defer any hostilities against Fort Sumter, especially in light of the convention for the formation of the new Confederate government. Hayne was in Washington as an envoy of S.C. Governor Pickens to negotiate the surrender of Fort Sumter, now occupied by a Federal garrison. Davis and his co-signers urge restraint, so as to "...prevent war or the shedding of blood. We represent states which have already seceded from the United States, or will have done so before the first of February next, and which will meet your state in Convention on or before the 15th of that month. Our people feel that they have a common destiny with your people and expect to form with them in that Convention a new Confederation and provisional Government. We must and will share your fortunes, suffering with you the evils of war, if it cannot be avoided...We, therefore, think it especially due from South Carolina to our States, to say nothing of other slave-holding states, that she should as far as she can consistently with her honor, avoid initiating hostilities between her and the United States or any other Power." He concludes: "Until you have received and communicated his [Governor Pickens] response to the President of course your state will not attack Fort Sumpter [sic], and the President will not offer to reinforce it." (See also Yancey's letter to Gov. Pickens, lot 70.)
The events at Sumter which followed are too well-known to require recital, but on February 4 the delegates of the seceded states met, adopted a constitution four days later and chose Davis President. Mallory was named Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin became Attorney General.