Mr. Speaker, Gentlemen of the General Assembly of Virginia, Ladies and Gentlemen
Noble are the words of Cicero
when he tells us that ‘it is the first and fundamental law of history that it should neither dare to say anything that is false, or fear to say anything that is true, nor give any just suspicion of favor or disaffection.’
No less a high standard must be invoked in considering the life, character, and services of Jefferson Davis
—a great man of a great epoch, whose name is blended with the renown of American arms and with the civic glories of the Cabinet
and the Congress
hall—a son of the South
, who became the head of a confederacy more populous and extensive than that for which Jefferson
wrote the Declaration of Independence
and the commander-in-chief
of armies many times greater than those of which Washington
was the general.
He swayed Senates and led the soldiers of the Union
—and he stood accused of treason in a court of justice.
He saw victory sweep illustrious battle-fields—and he became a captive.
He ruled millions—and he was put in chains.
He created a nation; he followed its bier; he wrote its epitaph—and he died a disfranchised citizen.
But though great in all vicissitudes and trials, he was greatest in that fortune which, lifting him first to the loftiest heights and casting him thence into the depths of disappointment, found him everywhere the erect and constant friend of truth.
He conquered himself and forgave his enemies, but bent to no one but God.