Repudiation of Disunionism and efforts to save the Union.
Four years later, when Senator Fessenden
, of Maine
, said, turning to him: ‘I have avowed no disunion sentiments on this floor; can the honorable gentleman from Mississippi
say as much?’
answered: ‘Yes; I have long sought for a respectable man to allege the contrary.’
And the imputation ended with the unanswered challenge to produce the evidence.
Even when secession seemed a foregone conclusion, Mr. Davis
stroved to avert it, being ready at any time to adopt the Crittenden measures of compromise if they were accepted by the opposition; and when the representatives and senators from Mississippi
were called in conference with the Governor
of that State, in December, 1860, he still advised forbearance ‘as long as any hope of a peaceful remedy remained,’ declaring that he felt certain, from his knowledge of the people North and South, that ‘if once there was a clash of arms the contest would be one of the most sanguinary the world had ever witnessed.’
But a single member of the conference agreed with him; several of its members were so dissatisfied with his position that they believed him entirely opposed to secession and as seeking delay with the hope that it might be averted; and the majority overruling his counsels, he then announced that he would stand by any action which might be taken by the convention representing the sovereignty of the State of Mississippi
Thus he stood on the brink of war, conservative, collected, appreciating the solemn magnitude of the crisis, and although the pencil of hostile passion has otherwise portrayed him, I do not believe there was a man living in 1861 who could have uttered more sincerely than he the words of Addison
: ‘Is there not some chosen curse, some hidden thunder in the stars of Heaven, red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man who owes his greatness to his country's ruin?’