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Presentation of Army of Tennessee badge and certificate of membership to ex-president Davis.

The Louisiana Division of the Association of the Army of Tennessee did itself credit in their excursion to Mississippi City for the purpose of presenting a badge and certificate of membership to ex-President Jefferson Davis. The ceremonies were of deep interest, but we have only space for the presentation address and Mr. Davis' reply.

Address of Colonel James Lingan, President of the Association.

Comrades of the Army of Tennessee, Ladies and Gentlemen: We have met here to-day for the purpose of tendering a testimonial of our hearts, our warm hearts' affection, and of our respect for one upon whom in the past the people of the South have heaped every honor and power within the gift of a free people.

We have assembled here for the purpose of looking back on the past, in order to learn a lesson for the future. We have assembled for the purpose of doing honor to the past, reviving memories of the dead and paying honor to the living. At the graves of our dead comrades we have no bitterness to cherish; we look rather towards. the future for the realization of the hopes lost to them, preserved to us in a prosperous and successful country. We can honor the living without inciting any of the antagonism of the past, because, throughout its length and breadth, the country, from the Rio Grande to its northernmost part, has rung with the name of him whom we meet here to-day to honor. It is not alone the ordeal through which we have passed together that we are called upon to-day to memorize, because the name of Jefferson Davis long before the war between the sections was a name honored and revered throughout the land, a name at which every man felt proud of his country and his manhood.

It would, therefore, be in bad grace for any one to say that the people of the South could not to-day do honor to him without reopening questions or issues, or feelings or prejudices, which we, at least, desire forever to be buried in the past.

You, Mr. Davis, I am instructed by the Association of the Army of Tennessee to inform, that at a regular meeting of our association you have been elected an honorary member.

On behalf of that association I hand you this engraved certificate of membership, and inasmuch as many here will perhaps not be able to see it in person, I will read the description.

[Colonel Lingan here read the certificate of membership, which runs as follows:

The Association of the Army of Tennessee.

To whom it may concern:
We do hereby declare and certify that Jefferson Davis entered the military service of the Confederate States of America as President and Commander-in-Chief, which position [163] he filled with unswerving fidelity and patriotism — undismayed by disaster and unbegulled by temporary success. That he met the obloquy of utter and final defeat, as he has the later shafts of detraction, with the patient, dignified bearing of a Christian gentleman and a hero, without reply, save in the language of a calm and philosophic statesmanship, and that in commemoration of his personal and official virtues he has been unanimously elected an honorary member of the Louisiana Division of the Association of the Army of Tennessee, and upon due proof of the above military record, has been awarded this certificate.

In testimony whereof we have hereunto set our hand and affixed the seal of the association this tenth day of July, 1878.

James Lingan, President. John C. Golding, Secretary.]

In addition to this, Mr. Davis, [Colonel Lingan continued] I am instructed to present to you, on behalf of the association, this badge of membership. It is inscribed: “Jefferson Davis, from the Louisiana Division of the Army of Tennessee, July 10, 1878.” There is on it the monogram of the Confederate States, Army of Tennessee. There is a battle flag of the Confederacy.

You will recognize the blue cross on the red field, and the Pelican, the coat of arms of Louisiana, in the centre. We present this, Mr. Davis, to you from the affection which we all bear to you personally, and from the great veneration and esteem which we have for you as a representative of our principles and rights under the constitution of our country, that are as true to-day as they were on the day when the issue was made. We believe that from the time when you espoused those principles in early manhood, you have been faithful to every trust imposed upon you by the people of the country; and we believe that in the future the time will come when that record will be endorsed by every man, woman and child in the country, from one end to the other.

Address of Hon. Jefferson Davis.

The gratitude felt for your kindness, and the appreciation of the honor you have conferred, are doubly dear to me. Dear, as they are an expression of your friendship and esteem, and not less dear as they are an exponent of the magnanimity of those who have much of sorrow and sacrifice to remember in connection with the period of my administration.

The history of the world is full of examples where rewards and honors and public appreciation have waited on the successful, and where condemnation followed failure; with little discrimination in either case as to the merit or demerit of the conduct applauded or condemned. To you, my countrymen, belongs the distinction of presenting an exception to the rule.

You come to-day to confer a bade and order on one endeared to you by our common misfortune, and especially regarded by you because he has been the particular object of the hate and unwearying slander of his and your enemies. I am cordially thankful for this kindness and proud to be enrolled in an association of men whose opinions and friendships do not veer with the changing tides of fortune. Your organization was appropriate, if not needful, to [164] preserve the memories and cherished brotherhoods of your soldier life, and cannot be objectionable to any, unless it be to one who holds your services to have been in an unworthy cause and your conduct such as called for repentance and forgiveness. The weary march, the picket, the ill-supplied camp, the heart-depressing hospital, as well as the battle field, afford numerous occasions to call forth the generosity and fidelity of soldier friends, and of all the tenderest memories and closest and strongest ties these are perhaps the most enduring. But to sanctify these friendships there must be pride as well in the cause as in the conduct. The veteran who shoulders his crutch to show how fields were won must not be ashamed of the battle in which he was wounded. To higher natures success is not the only test of merit; and you, my friends, though you were finally unsuccessful, have the least possible cause to regret the flag under which you marched or the manner in which you upheld it. Under provocation the bitterest and oft-repeated, yours was never the policy of retaliation. While your homes were laid waste and your families often left destitute, the peaceful home of an enemy suffered not at your hands; nor had the non-combatants cause to tremble at your coming, either in their body or estate. There were some who were not with our marching armies that advocated raising the black flag, but you preferred to share your canteen with the wounded enemy and your half ration with a hungry prisoner. In the heat of the conflict, I commended this exhibition of magnanimity on the part of our soldiers in a general order, and remember with pride the chivalry which called it forth. It were needless to recall the instances of cruel and unmanly conduct of the enemy towards the aged men and helpless women and children of our land; if it were possible to forget, it were well such acts were forgotten. The noblest have most power to forgive, and the meanest are most revengeful. The first is best able to return good for evil; that is your part, and your past conduct shows how well you were able to meet the requirement.

As an original question, the propriety of exercising the State right of secession in 1861 was at least debatable, but the course pursued by the Federal Government, after the war had ceased, vindicates the judgment of those who held separation to be necessary for the safety and freedom of the Southern States. The unsuccessful attempt to separate left those in power to work their will, as it had been manifested when they first got control of the Government. The events are too recent to require recapitulation, and the ruin they have wrought, the depravity they have developed, require no other memorial than the material and moral wreck which the country presents.

Permit me to say of the controverted question of secession by a State from the Union, of which it was a member by compact, voluntarily made, that my faith in that right as an inherent attribute of State sovereignty, was adopted early in life, was confirmed by the study and observation of later years, and has passed, unchanged [165] and unshaken, through the severe ordeal to which it has been subjected.

Without desire for a political future, only anxious for the supremacy of the truths on which the Union was founded, and which I believe to be essential to the prosperity and the liberties of the people, it is little to assume that I shall die, as I have lived, firm in the State rights faith.

In other times and places I have discussed the right of a State to withdraw from the Union, and will not repeat the argument on this occasion.

Suffice it to say, the historical facts from which the right is deducible can only be overthrown by the demolition of the principles on which the government of our fathers was ordained and established. The independence and sovereignty of the State carried with it the obligation of the allegiance of the citizen to his State. To refuse to defend it when invaded would be treason. To respond to its call and go forth with those who “hung the banner on the outer wall,” was a legal duty and obligation to his home, and all it held dear — alike binding on the father, the brother, the son and the citizen. The propriety of engaging in war is a question open to debate; but, when it has been entered on, to shrink from its trials. and responsibilities is a crime, which in all ages has been denounced by the patriotic and the brave.

It is questionable whether war is ever justifiable except for defence, and then it is surely a duty. No calling or condition in life exempts the citizen from service where his countrymen think he can be useful. Thus the good Bishop Polk reasoned before entering the army, after solemn meditation and prayer, for he told me before doing so, that he regarded the war as pro aris et focis, and that his calling required rather than excluded him from serving, wherever and however he was most needed. This holy man, with pious thought, buckled on his sword, and how heroically he bore himself on many battle fields, you, the survivors of the Army of Tennessee, can best bear witness. Throughout his arduous service he continued his ministerial functions, instructing as well by precept as example, while, ever mindful of Him in whose hands is the destiny of man, he prayerfully invoked God's favor on the righteous cause he righteously supported. When he fell on the field of battle, slain, like pious Abel, by his brother, the earth never drank nobler blood than his, and no purer spirit ever ascended to the Father.

Martyrdom has generally been accepted, and surely with reason, as proof of the sanctity of the cause for which the martyr died. Time would not serve to enumerate even a small part of the examples furnished by your prayerful army, of pious service and pious death in battle, but pride and affection will not allow me to leave them all to silent memory. The Greek who defended the pass and the Roman who held for a time the bridge have been immortalized in song and story. Yet neither of these performed a more heroic deed than did Tilghman, the commander of Fort [166] Henry. To save his command from capture, he and a handful of equally devoted followers served the few guns they had in the fort, and delayed the comparatively vast force and armament attacking them until his brigade, thus covered, could retreat upon Fort Donelson. At last, when his defences were breached, he surrendered with the surviving remnant of the gallant little band, who had offered themselves a willing sacrifice on the altar of their country, and went to that torture, mental and physical, which any of you who had the misforture to be a prisoner know how to estimate.

Close by in time and space was another example of patriotic and soldierly devotion, which you will not value the less for not having been crowned with victory — the defence of Fort Donelson, on which depended the possibility of holding our line in Southern Kentucky and the safety of Nashville.

Relying on constitutional guarantees and restrictions, the South had not prepared for the war before taking the step which led to it. Therefore it was not possible to supply you with the clothing and shelter needful in the extraordinary cold and sleet, nor to garnish the work you defended with an armament and munitions at all comparable to that of your assailants; yet to the world it is known, and will long be remembered, how gallantly you held the position, and the desperate efforts which you made to cut your way through the investing force.

I am sure you will anticipate me in paying a tribute to the soldierly conduct of the true-hearted Buckner, who, when the command devolved upon him, refused to follow the example which had been set him, and declared his purpose to remain and share the fate of the men, whatever it might be. That wise and far-seeing soldier, Sidney Johnston, had correctly measured the value of holding the position of Fort Donelson. From the few troops with which he held the line of Green river, he made a detachment to reinforce the garrison of Fort Donelson. When that fort fell, and the fact become apparent, which he so long skillfully concealed from both friend and foe, of the small number of troops under his immediate command, retreat beyond the Cumberland became inevitable. Time has revealed how nobly you bore those disappointments and reverses, and still remained true to your colors; and I am sure your conduct on that occasion must ever be held in grateful remembrance by your countrymen.

The carpet knights, who, like Job's war horse, snuffed the battle from afar, but, unlike the war horse, neighed not with impatience to engage the enemy, but from afar off criticised and derided every failure, without caring to inquire, and perhaps without capacity to comprehend, the cause thereof, added to your regrets for the unavoidable, and the painful memories of all you had dared, suffered and lost, the bitter sting of unjust censure and ingratitude. Yet it is a memorable fact, that, though leaving your homes and wives and children behind, you closed your ears to their pitiful cries and circled deep around your commander, who richly deserved and had acquired your confidence in his ability to defend the country [167] and his willingness to sacrifice himself for it. Was it that his grand presence inspired you with unmeasured confidence and the hope — of happier days when opportunity should offer? or was it that your judgment told you that you followed, as I verily believe you did, the greatest soldier, the ablest man, civil or military, Confederate *or Federal, then living? He seemed about to fulfill these hopes and expectations, when, concentrating all the forces within his reach, he moved forward to the battle of Shiloh. General Johnston sent to me a cipher dispatch, being his plan of battle, and I regret the loss of it the more, because it was the only instance within my knowledge of a plan which was executed as it was devised. How well the tide of battle rose and swept onward in the channels his great arm directed, I need not say to you who saw it. When at last an obstinate resistance stayed the steady progress of our lines, Johnston rode to the point of danger, to lead his men to the capture of what was believed to be the last point to be carried. There, and in the performance of that supreme duty, your great leader received the wound which proved mortal. A prompt attention would have prevented a fatal result, but his heart was all his country's, his only thought was of his duty — he remembered not himself.

[Mr. Davis here read a beautiful tribute to General Johnston, which has been often published.]

There have been those who supposed he had been goaded into recklessness and had thrown away his life. As a friend who had known him intimately through all the years of our manhood, had served with him in barracks and in battle, I lay claim to more than ordinary ability to judge of his motives under any given state of facts, and unhesitatingly reject the supposition as unjust to his nature and refuted by the testimony of his whole life. When he left his command in California to cross the continent on horseback and join the Confederacy, he came without herald, without pretension or claim for high rank from the Confederate Government. He simply offered himself to the cause. When he arrived in Richmond, he came unexpectedly to my residence, where I was ill, confined to my bed and unable to receive visitors. When he entered the hall, I recognized his step and sent to have him shown up. He came, and by his accession I felt strengthened and reassured, knowing that a great support had thereby been added to the Confederate cause. When he fell, I realized that our strongest pillar had been broken.

I will not follow you through your long career of honorable service, or pause to exult with you over the battle fields rendered illustrious by your victories, but cannot forbear expressing the hope that some competent person will give to the world a full history of the Army of Tennessee. Yet, before leaving the subject, I wish to mention one of the many proofs I saw of your efficiency and valor. On the field of Chicamauga, where you achieved a brilliant victory under that true patriot and able soldier, General Bragg, it was noticeable, after the conflict, to see the side of the [168] trees next to the enemy riddled with balls and shot from the ground to a very great height, while on the Confederate side the trees were but little marked and the marks were near to the ground. The number of the killed and wounded show how calmly you selected the object and how well your balls obeyed your will.

Now, let us look further to the South and West, where the great problem was to keep control of the Mississippi river. After New Orleans and Island No.10 had been captured, the problem was narrowed to preserving the section between Port Hudson and Vicksburg. While this was held, communication was possible with the Trans-Mississippi, upon which we much relied for a supply of provisions. This section was also requisite for co-operation between the troops of the east and the west sides of the river.

Long and well did the little garrison of Port Hudson maintain its position, and the siege of Vicksburg will ever be memorable for the duration of the defence of an unfortified place against a well appointed and numerically vastly superior army. The heroic deeds of the defenders and the long bombardment and frequent assaults on their hastily constructed entrenchments will, when better understood, shed imperishable lustre on General Pemberton and his gallant army; nor less, in time to come, will the unflinching devotion and self-denial of the citizens be gratefully remembered. For a long time after the siege sight-seers came to gaze at the caves which had been dug for the protection of the women and children. However, by such inspection little was to be learned of the privations and dangers voluntarily endured by the gentle but heroic sufferers. Here, and everywhere, the unanimity of our people proved the thoroughness of their conviction of the rectitude of our cause. We have been accustomed, and justly, too, to give unmeasured praise for the sacrifices made by our Revolutionary ancestors for the cause of self-government and the independence which had been declared. But there was no such unanimity among the colonists as was shown by our people in their effort to maintain the liberties their fathers had secured and transmitted to them. Then organized bodies of Tories combated, with doubtful result, the troops of the States in revolution. Among us there was no organized resistance, and but few cases of individual defection. This, at least, shows that our cause was not less dear or less worthy of a people's love than theirs.

Let no one suppose that in thus vindicating our cause, in paying due tribute to your gallant deeds, and in commending the heroic fortitude of your mothers, your wives, your sisters and your daughters, I am seeking to disturb such peace as we have, or to avoid the logic of events. You have done your duty in the past, and I would ask no more than that you should fulfill equally well the duties of the present and the future. The bravest are, as a rule, the gentlest, and they are also the truest to every obligation assumed by them. You struck for independence and were unsuccessful You agreed to return to the Union, and abide by the constitution and the laws made in conformity with it. Thus far, no farther, do [169] I understand your promise to extend. It does not require you to accept a fraud in the title to office, nor, because a man calls himself a “statesman,” to admit his right to legitimize bribery and perjury.

Wars of conquest, like the convulsive heaving of an earthquake, displace the proper order of constituent elements, and bringing the dregs of society to the surface check both material and moral progress. But this evil in a country where the people rule, must have an inherent remedy. Bad laws, badly administered, impair the prosperity and happiness of the masses, and their interest must teach them that corruption and fraud may enrich the few, but does so by impoverishing the many.

Ignorance and unbridled passion in legislation may not enrich the few, but must make the many poor indeed. To which of these causes is to be referred the extraordinary legislation of the Congresses which followed the war, it is left to others to decide. The tax-payers know that an increased burden was imposed on them by the changes made in the contracts with the bondholders. The merchants and ship-owners know that we have lost the carrying trade; and to what will they assign a policy which prevents the reregistration of an American ship that had changed her flag during the war, which imposes such duties on the raw material as to interfere with ship-building, and prohibits the registration of a foreign built ship, though it be, by purchase, the property of a citizen of the United States?

Will the people, if worthy the source of all power, allow a long continuance of such palpable wrongs to the masses — such ruin to interests which have been equally our pride and means of prosperity?

A form of government must correspond to the character of the people for which it is appropriate. It is therefore that republics have failed whenever corruption entered the body politic and rendered the people unworthy to rule. Then they become the fit subjects of despotism, and a despot is always at hand to respond to the call. A Caesar could not subjugate a people who were fit to be free; nor could a Brutus save them, if they were fit for subjugation.

The fortitude with which our people have borne the oppression imposed on them since the war was closed; the resolute will with which they have struggled against poverty and official pillage, is their highest glory and gives the best assurance of final triumph.

Well may we rejoice in the regained possession of local self-government, in the power of the people to choose their representatives and to legislate uncontrolled by bayonets. This is the great victory, and promises another as the sequence to it, a total non-interference by the Federal Government with the domestic affairs of the States. The revival of the time-honored doctrine of State sovereignty and the supremacy of the law will secure permanent peace, freedom and prosperity. The constitution of the United States, interpreted as it was by those who made it, is the prophet's rod to sweeten the bitter water from which flowed the strife, the carnage, [170] the misery and the shame of the past, as well as the foils of the present.

Every evil which has befallen our institutions is directly traceable to the perversion of the compact of union and the usurpation by the Federal Government of undelegated powers. Let one memorable example suffice for illustration. When Missouri asked for admission as a State into the Union, to which she had a two-fold right under the constitution and usages of the United States, and also under the terms of the treaty by which the territory was acquired, her application was resisted, and her admission was finally purchased by the unconstitutional concession, miscalled the “Missouri Compromise.” When that establishment of a politico-geographical line was announced to the apostle of Democracy, who, full of years and honors, in retirement, watched with profound solicitude the course of the government he had so mainly contributed to inaugurate, his prophetic vision saw the end, of which this was the beginning. The news fell upon his ear “like a fire bell at night.”

Men had differed and would differ about measures and public policy, according to their circumstances or mental characteristics. Such differences tended to the elucidation of truth, the triumph of reason over error. Parties so founded would not be sectional; but when the Federal Government made a parallel of latitude a political line, sectional party could not fulfill the ends for which the Union was ordained and established. If the limitations of the constitution had been observed, and its purposes had directed Federal legislation, no such act could have been passed; the lid of the Pandora box might have remained closed, and the country have escaped the long train of similar aggressions which aggrandized one section, impoverished the other, and, adding insult to injury, finally destroyed the fraternity which had bound them together.

It was no part of my purpose, as has been already shown, to discuss the politics of the day, though the deep interest I must ever feel in the affairs of the country has not allowed me to ignore them, and will not permit me to be unobservant of passing events, or indifferent to the humiliating exposures to which the Federal Government has of late been subjected. Separated from any active participation in public affairs, I may not properly judge of those who have to bear the heat and burden of the day. Representing no one, it would be quite unreasonable to hold any other responsible for the opinions which I may entertain. How or when a restoration of the government to the principles and practices of its earlier period may be accomplished, it is not given to us to foresee. For me it remains only earnestly to hope, and hopefully to believe, though I may not see it, that the restoration will come. To disbelieve this, is to discredit the popular intelligence and integrity on which self-government must necessarily depend. Though severely tried, my faith in the people is not lost, and I prayerfully trust, though I should not live to see the hope realized, that it will be permitted to me to die believing that the principles on which our [171] fathers founded their government will finally prevail throughout the land, and the ends for which it was instituted yet be attained and rendered as perpetual as human institutions may be.

I have said we could not foresee how or when this may be brought to pass, but it is not so difficult to determine what means are needful to secure the result. First in order and importance, for it is the corner stone of the edifice, the elective franchise must be intelligently and honestly exercised. Let there be no class legislation, low taxes, low salaries, no perquisites; and let the official be held to a strict accountability to his constituents. Nepotism and gift-taking by a public agent deserves severest censure, and the bestowal of the people's office as a reward for partisan service should be regarded as a gross breach of trust. Let not such offences be condoned; for, in a government of the people there can be no abuses permissible as usefully counteracting each other. Truth and justice and honor presided at the birth of our Federal Union, and its mission can only be performed by their continual attendance upon it. For this there is not needed a condition of human perfectibility, but only so much of virtue as will control vice and teach the mercenary and self-seeking that power and distinction and honor will be awarded to patriotism, capacity and integrity.

To you, self-sacrificing, self-denying defenders of imperishable truths and inalienable rights, I look for the performance of whatever man can do for the welfare and happiness of his country.

In the language of a gifted poet of Mississippi--

It is not for thee to falter,
     It is not for thee to palter,
In this crisis — for thy mission is the mightiest of Time;
     It is thine to lead a legion,
Out of every realm and region,
     In the glorious march sunward to the golden heights sublime.

Father Ryan was then called out and made an eloquent address, in which he paid a high tribute to the patriotism, service and personal character of Mr. Davis--saying, among other things, that during his long and distinguished public career he had never once been investigated.

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