Jefferson Davis Farewell Speech

Jefferson Davis explains why Mississippi seceded to the U.S. Senate


Jefferson Davis addressed the topic of negro equality in his own Farewell Speech to the U.S. Senate.

The Black Republicans were justifying the doctrine of racial equality by citing the Declaration of Independence. The people of Mississippi found this disturbing enough to secede from the Union:

“It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi to her present decision.

She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races. That Declaration of Independence is to be construed by the circumstances and purposes for which it was made. The communities were declaring their independence; the people of those communities were asserting that no man was born—to use the language of Mr. Jefferson—booted and spurred to ride over the rest of mankind; that men were created equal—meaning the men of the political community; that there was no divine right to rule; that no man inherited the right to govern; that there were no classes by which power and place descended to families, but that all stations were equally within the grasp of each member of the body politic. These were the great principles they announced; these were the purposes for which they made their declaration; these were the ends to which their enunciation was directed. They have no reference to the slave; else, how happened it that among the items of arraignment made against George III was that he endeavored to do just what the North has been endeavoring of late to do – to stir up insurrection among our slaves? Had the Declaration announced that the negroes were free and equal, how was the Prince to be arraigned for stirring up insurrection among them? And how was this to be enumerated among the high crimes which caused the colonies to sever their connection with the mother country? When our Constitution was formed, the same idea was rendered more palpable, for there we find provision made for that very class of persons as property; they were not put upon the footing of equality with white men—not even upon that of paupers and convicts; but, so far as representation was concerned, were discriminated against as a lower caste, only to be represented in the numerical proportion of three-fifths.

Then, Senators, we recur to the compact which binds us together; we recur to the principles upon which our Government was founded; and when you deny them, and when you deny us the right to withdraw from a Government which thus perverted threatens to be destructive of our rights, we but tread in the path of our fathers when we proclaim our independence, and take the hazard. This is done, not in hostility to others; not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit, but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our duty to transmit unshorn to our children.”

Davis explains that Thomas Jefferson was not referring to the African negro in the Declaration of Independence. On the contrary, the Declaration condemned King George III for inciting slave insurrections in the Southern colonies. The negro did not even have the same status as paupers and convicts.

Let’s recap:

(1) Jefferson Davis told the U.S. Senate that Mississippi was seceding over the Radical position on racial equality.

(2) Alexander Stephens explained in the Cornerstone Speech and Virginia Convention Speech that the Confederacy was based on the inferiority of the black race.

(3) Robert Toombs told the U.S. Senate that the people of Georgia rejected negro equality and would meet them at the border with the sword in their hand.

(4) The Confederate commissioners appealed to the Upper South and Border South to secede over the threat posed by racial equality.

(5) Robert E. Lee testified before Congress during Reconstruction that Virginia would be better off after the expulsion of the negro.

(6) Southerners like Sen. John Tyler Morgan and Sen. Theodore Bilbo argued for the colonization of the negro in Africa during the Jim Crow era.

(7) The State of Texas justified secession on the Republican Party’s support for “the debasing doctrine of the equality of all men” in its declaration of the causes of secession.

(8) Robert Barnwell Rhett was disgusted by racial equality which he considered an insult to the South. He called for the Union of the White Race of the South after the war.

(9) William Lowndes Yancey said he would rather go down like the Spartans at Thermopylae and crawl into a grave than be degraded to the level of the Northern free negro.

(10) Gov. Zebulon Vance of North Carolina opposed the Federal Elections Bill of 1890 for subjecting the intelligence and property of the South to ignorance and poverty during Reconstruction.

(11) John C. Calhoun said that “ours is a government of the white race” and that we had “never dreamt” of incorporating any other race into our country. He argued at length that slavery was a positive good, that the states had a right to secede, and that liberty was a curse rather than a blessing to the negro.

(12) The great John Wilkes Booth on why he assassinated the tyrant Abraham Lincoln:

“That means nigger citizenship. Now, by God, I’ll put him through. That is the last speech he will ever make.”

That’s only the tip of the iceberg:

“As the conflict with the Yankees loomed, there was renewed interest in the old Tidewater theory that racial differences were to blame. In wartime propaganda, the Deep Southern elite was explicitly included in the allegedly superior Norman/Cavalier race in an effort to increase the bonds between the regions, with the (decidedly un-Norman) Appalachian districts often embraced for good measure. For Tidewater in particular, casting the conflict as a war for Norman liberation from Anglo-Saxon tyranny neatly sidestepped the more problematic slavery issue. The Southern Literary Messenger, Tidewater’s leading journal, conceded in 1861 that “the Roundheads” may gain many victories in view of their superior strength and their better condition” but assured “they will lose the last battle and then sink down to their normal position of relative inferiority.” The journal argued the Confederate aim was to create “a sort of Patrician Republic” ruled by people “superior to all other races on this continent.”

This propaganda was embraced in the Deep South as well. In an 1862 speech, Jefferson Davis told Mississippi legislators that their enemies were “a traditionless and homeless race … gathered by Cromwell from the bogs and fens of the north of Ireland and of England” to be “disturbers of peace in the world.” The war, DeBow’s Review declared, was a struggle to reverse the ill-conceived American Revolution, which had been contrary to “the natural reverence of the Cavalier for the authority of established forms over mere speculative ideas.” By throwing off monarchy, slaveholders endangered the wondrous “domestic institution” that rested “on the principle of inequality and subordination, and favored a public policy embodying the ideas of social status.” Democracy “threw political influence into the hands of inorganic masses” and caused “the subjection of the Cavalier to the intellectual thralldom of the Puritan.” Other Tidewater and Deep Southern thinkers came to agree that the struggle was really between respect for established aristocratic order and the dangerous Puritan notion that “the individual man was … of higher worth than any system of polity.” As Fitzhugh put it, it was a war “between conservatives and revolutionists; between Christians and infidels … the chase and the libidinous, between marriage and free-love.” Some even championed the dubious notion that the Confederacy was fighting a Huguenot-Anglican counterreformation against Puritan excess. Slavery was not the issue, they argued – defeating democracy was.”

The idea of a “Rainbow Confederacy” is preposterous. Secession was an explicitly conservative revolt against the perceived excesses of liberal democracy. The counterrevolution was crushed and we are still suffering from the consequences.

Note: President Andrew Johnson, the arch unionist from East Tennessee, vetoed the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and opposed the 14th Amendment which threatened to “create such a tyranny as this continent has never yet witnessed.”

About Hunter Wallace 12381 Articles
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Occidental Dissent


  1. This is why I tend to refuse to call the war of Independence a revolutionary war.

    The Virginians were I suspect keeping an eye on trends in the UK that were favoring abolition. Washington and Jeffrrson perhaps understood that Parliamentary radicals were going to abolish slavery.

  2. During the few gop debates we watched, there was a noticeable attempt to end reference to the constitution and, instead, to invoke the “Declaration.” Perry did it a lot, seems like, and Santorum. The wrong kind of politician always refers to it, and never to the constitution.

  3. The Declaration was just a propaganda speech. Constitution is a real document about how the people were going to try to live

  4. My God, man. Why did I not READ this, HEAR this, STUDY this, in four years of high school, five years of college, in the debates and articles I read as an adult, when first taking out a subscription to the WSJ at 21, or even during my thirties and forties?

    This is ALL NEW. To hear these men speak these words of utter wisdom, makes the BULLSHIT of MLK et al., topple to the ground like so many houses of cards.

    Secession. Now. Today. Forever.

  5. “Secession was an explicitly conservative revolt against the perceived excesses of liberal democracy.” Not FOR the return of monarchism, and revival of “Norman” class rule wouldn’t be the thinking of Appalachian mountaineers at least.

  6. The Declaration and Constitution pertain to a people suited by nature to live in a republican democracy.

  7. @ FR.


    Though I’m still relatively young, it’s striking … the massive, grandiloquent propaganda campaign that has been waged for generations. Every time I read the words of men like Davis, it’s a taste of sanity; but then, as if rudely awakened from a deep slumber, I’m forced back into the foggy reality of our multicultural carnival society.

    It’s depressing.

  8. Mosin- Secession is not to RETURN to a failed system, but to restore the FREEDOM of those whose rights have been destroyed. If the Cavalier/Anglican/Aristocratic element was at the forefront of the First Secession, then what makes ANYONE think that a return to what CAUSED the First Secession (i.e., Puritan Egalitarian YANKEES!) will succeed a second time?

    No, Fraser is right. Monarchy is both the Biblical, and the European frame of referent. But it also needs to be tempered (as was Britain’s) with strong participation of the Yeomanry- but an Educated Yeomanry as well as an Aristocracy… and NO JEWS in the mix, at any time, now or forevermore.

  9. Interesting to see of all things Normans referenced.

    They ended the Anglo Saxon practice of slavery. Generally reserved for those who were not able to administer their own lives. There were no prisons at this time. They destroyed the Freeman class and transformed all into serfs and then opened up prisons for the noncompliant.

    I can’t believe a Southerner would have identified with the Norman. Surely Harold Godwinson was preferable to William the Bastard?

  10. It’s no surpising that they keep the ideology of the leading confederates out of the text books. Much of what they say is perfectly reasonable and current. One day it might actually resurface and be dealt with sympathetically.

    After the great chimpout perhaps?

  11. The Appalachians might have closely identified against Cromwell. The INS and outs of it are complex. The older Irish Protestants (upperclass) and Old English (Normans) would have had Strongbow’s blood in their veins most likely.

    But Cromwell would have had the grudging loyalty of most Plantation Protestants: Presbyterians even.

    I have an idea that the Southerns were Cavalier descendents so they would be High Anglican. I’m amazed that they would have maintained the Norman identity though.
    Given the Norman role in ending slavery in England (through reducing all to serfs)

  12. “Dixiegirl says:
    March 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm
    During the few gop debates we watched, there was a noticeable attempt to end reference to the constitution and, instead, to invoke the “Declaration.” Perry did it a lot, seems like, and Santorum. The wrong kind of politician always refers to it, and never to the constitution.”

    DixieGirl – brava. Well done. That insight of yours is brilliant. We are overwhelmed with floods of data, and issues, and outrages, and it’s too easy to overlook, and miss, essential little critical points. The types of things the world’s turn on.

    Brilliant. You are not merely right, but dead on target-score-dead center right.

    I will pay attention to this point, in the future.

    Thank you.

  13. Re: “If the Cavalier/Anglican/Aristocratic element was at the forefront of the First Secession, then what makes ANYONE think that a return to what CAUSED the First Secession (i.e., Puritan Egalitarian YANKEES!) will succeed a second time?” The CONSTITUTIONAL, conservative, republican democracy I referenced above is not similar to the Yankees’ radical, liberal, unconstitutional egalitarianism. Norman rule come here? Never. We don’t wear Saxon green and Celt blue woad for nothing. Freedom!

  14. Sorry, Mosin. I’m a Christian, not a Pagan Celt. I wear my plaids, and play my pipes,and sing the psalter when I’ve a mind to, or good Welsh and Anglican hymns most of the time, and occasionally tell my beads……. but paint my face blue like some effing pagan?

    Sorry. Christendom cured us of all that, back in the 4th Century….

    You ought to come up to date.

  15. DixieGirl: I have to respectfully disagree with some of your points. The Declaration of Independence is what created this country. It has been take way our of context and converted into an equality tool to browbeat true conservatives. The Constitution was preceeded by the Articles of Confederation, which got us through the Revolution and were eventually replaced by imperialists, central bank/government powers like Alexander Hamilitor and James Madison. I was once a Constitution worshipper, but no more. Respectable conservatives claim the Constitution is about the protection of individual freedoms and small government. The Marxists say it’s a living document and was meant as only the framework. Study it and you will find the Marxists are right. The Constitution was NEVER about personal freedom or small government, it was about the centralization of power and “energetic” proactive government. Read it again and you will find few if any restrictions on what central government. Look at it over time and you will see. Has it protected us from the encroachment of the federal government? No, it was never meant to. Also, keep in mind that Hamiliton didn’t want the Bill of Rights but the Anti-Federalists won them for us. Can you imagine where we would be without the Bill of Rights?

  16. Let me modify the above comment: The Declaration of Independence, ensuing War of Independence, and the Treaty of Paris did not create the U.S. The States created it later. The States came first and were meant to be sovereign.

  17. In the last years I’ve come to the conclusion that abstracts and words are not suitable as the basis of a country, but only blood and soil and true nationality will suffice in the long term. I think present day “conservatives” have went way overboard with the religious like devotion to individualism. Some is good, but the enemy wants us whites to be divided, split individuals who can’t come to concensus on anything while much effort is expended to ensure the minorities and chosen ones are a monolithic team. One ant is no threat, but don’t go sticking your hand in a hill of a million ants.

  18. This is quite fascinating. I’ve been taught such a perverted view of the Confederacy, to the point that I’d even consider them traitorous. Personal studies challenged that “black and white” approach, and this entry further divides that notion.

  19. You’re treading on sacred ground with me when you go so far to malign the memory of President Davis, just to advance your bigoted anti-Christian agenda. Jefferson Davis’ views at that time were pretty much the same as every man he addressed in Congress. Even the most radical Abolitionists were motivated by a sense of what might today be called “white supremacy” (after all this freedom was going to be affected by THEIR efforts — not by the merits of slaves). Also Davis is speaking primarily towards the issue of the SLAVE — not necessarily the “race” Given the lies of liberals today, it is too easy to totally MISS some of the more nuanced meanings underling Davis’ words in this address. I would like to address two:

    He makes mention of the famous “three-fifths” clause in the Constitution. Was this a reflection of his own feelings towards the races? OR was it a wry commentary on the hypocrisy of the men who were condemning the South for the institution of slavery? We must remember that during the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, that it was the SOUTHERN delegates who wanted the slaves to be FULLY counted in censuses for the purposes of gaining seats in Congress, and it was the NORTHERN delegation (the very ancestors of these Radical Abolitionists) who vetoed that idea.

    Secondly, we must also understand that Blacks had a curious form of “citizenship”. The whole idea of “nation” at that time WAS another word for “race” For example the territory that would become the State of Oklahoma, was first known as the “Indian Nations” So the words “nation” and “race” could, at that time, be used almost interchangeably. However, Black people had been living in the South since almost the beginning, and they were a part of it too, so there was this odd sense (by the standards of that day) of “citizenship” that did apply to them (they did not refer to this as a “peculiar institution” for no reason). After all Blacks COULD attain their freedom– and did. Blacks also could attain property, and even other Black slaves– and did. The South that Davis left Washington to preside over as its first President was a South that had BLACK slave-owners too.

    So you are presenting only one thing the man said in the course of a lifetime to suggest that his thoughts were this way or that, and that perhaps they were never modified by time, experience, or even influence of others with more moderate views (such as Gen. Patrick Cleburne, who advocated freeing the slaves on condition of service in the Confederate Army — a proposition Davis at first rejected, but later came more towards accepting– remember this was referencing SLAVES not necessarily “Blacks” many of whom were already serving in Confederate units both in the Army & Navy) Remember the very man who spoke the words of that address ALSO SPOKE THESE:

    “The slave must be made fit for his freedom by education and discipline and thus be made unfit for slavery” [From “The South Was Right!” Kennedy & Kennedy p. 103]


  20. As for this “Norman versus Puritan egalitarian” non-sense. This whole thing points out one of the things that really disturbs me about us Southerners– there are some among us who actually think they have a handle on our history and heritage and try to advance that as “what we were all about” These notions of a “Norman/Cavalier” heritage were mostly a romanticism. We are mainly a Scots-Irish stock mixed with Native Indians, and yes, Blacks in many cases. We also know very little about our enemies as well “Puritan /egalitarians”??? Are you kidding me?? There was NOTHING “egalitarian” about the Puritans. Indeed if any characteristic identified a people it was their DISTINCT character to always suppose they were right and every body else was wrong. No matter what they believed in (or today believe in) be it some doctrine they professed as “Christian” or even blatant atheism– they pursue it with a fanaticism that is unrivaled in history. No one else in the history of the world is like them (and I thank God that NONE of their blood courses through my veins!)

    The South would have then done itself a better service STICKING to its POLITICAL causes and left discussion of history alone. Today we would do ourselves a better service DOING THE SAME. Focus on CURRENT POLITICAL issues.


  21. Paul says to Philemon about “Onesimus ” the runaway slave; receive him not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved.
    All you race-sensitive people are going to be shocked when you meet Jesus. According to Matthew 1, there are all of these Black people in His geneology (like Rahab the Canaanite innkeeper, a daughter of Ham). Rahab gave birth to Obed; Obed to Jesse; Jesse to david ; follow David’s line to Christ. Most of you people are simply unreconcilable race minded sinners. Are you ready to meet your Judge?

  22. Regarding the 11/23/13 reply about the “non-sense”, you mean people can’t have a discussion about history. I’m Christian through and through, but for God’s sake, get the chip off your shoulder. All kinds of history has been misstated and maligned since time began, and it is OK to discuss what people know from the printed word and otherwise. I think the people who want to restrict discussions miss the point, and that would be you: Absolom Sir. You sound like Obama, tell us the ending and then ridicule persons that have a different opinion than you, and better yet, you do it in the name of God. I am certain that a significant portion of the above is good dialog to know based on the written word and I think I have as much chance for heaven as you, Mr. Absolom. Difference is I’m not being judgmental. Quote me something that says it is OK for you to do so. You won’t find it. Thank you for the commentary all that contributed. Just keep your tone nice and people will try to understand your positions.

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