Biographies of Seceding Mississippi Delegation


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Civil War Harper's Weekly, February 2, 1861

Other Pages From this Newspaper Include:

Biographies of Seceding Mississippi Delegation | Fort Monroe in Harper's Weekly | Fort Monroe Article | Secession of Georgia and Louisiana





[FEBRUARY 2, 1861.




 a Senator from Mississippi, is the son of Samuel Davis, a Revolutionary soldier, and was born in Kentucky on the 3rd of June, 1808. Soon afterward his father removed to Mississippi, where he received his elementary education, and then entered Transylvania University, Kentucky, from whence he entered the Military Academy at West Point in 1824. After graduating, he served with such ability in the line and staff, that when a new regiment of dragoons was raised in 1833 he received a first lieutenant's commission therein, and for two years was actively engaged in the expeditions against the Indians at the Northwest. Resigning his commission in 1835, he settled down on his plantation, devoting much of his time to the study of political economy, until in 1843 he was tempted from his retirement to "take the stump" in behalf of the Democratic party, and was so zealous a champion, that he was nominated and afterward elected a member of the Electoral College which gave the vote of Mississippi to Polk and Dallas. In 1855 he was elected to Congress, but resigned at the commencement of the Mexican war, to accept the colonelcy of the First Mississippi Rifles, which performed such effective service at Monterey and at Buena Vista. Returning home severely wounded, he was elected in 1847 to the United States Senate, where he took high States Rights grounds, and was re-elected in 1851, but resigned to enter into a contest with Henry S. Foote for the gubernatorial chair. Although he reduced the majority of his opponent, he was defeated by 999 votes; but he continued to take a leading part in politics, and was appointed Secretary of War when General Pierce became President. His able administration of military affairs is well known ; and since his return to the Senate in 1857 he has, as chairman of the Military Committee, done much to increase the efficiency of our army. Personally, Senator Davis is the Bayard of Congress, sans pear et sans reproche; a finished scholar; a high-minded gentleman ; an easy, yet vigorous and effective speaker; a devoted father a true friend. He is emphatically one of those " born to command," and is doubtless destined to occupy a high position, either in the Southern Confederacy or in the United States. While so gloriously linked with the Union, by services in the field, the forum, and the cabinet, he has repeatedly declared : " In the contingency of the election of a President on the platform of Mr. Seward's Rochester speech, let the Union be dissolved. Let the 'great, but not the greatest, evil' come ; for, as did the great and good Calhoun, from whom is drawn that expression of value, I love and venerate the Union of these States, but I love Liberty and Mississippi more."


 a Senator from Mississippi, was born in Chester District, South Carolina, May 31, 1813, and about ten years afterward was taken by his father to the State where he now resides, and where he commenced life as a farmer's boy. After receiving limited educational advantages, he was admitted to the bar when only nineteen years of age, commenced practice, and in 1835 was elected to the State Legislature, where he soon distinguished himself by a report against the Constitutional right of the General Government to charter a United States Bank. After becoming the Democratic leader in the Legislature, he was, in 1839, elected to the National House of Representatives, and, after declining a renomination, was placed on the bench of the Circuit Court. In 1844 he was elected Governor, and served four years with great credit, restoring the finances of the State to a healthy condition, establishing a State University and Common Schools, and taking the initiative steps in the works of internal improvement since so nobly carried out. In 1849 he was again elected to the House of Representatives ; and in 1854 was transferred to the Senate, where his frank, energetic manner gives him a commanding position in debate. Emphatically "a man of the people," Governor Brown is the sworn foe of extravagance and profligacy in the management of public affairs, and a zealous advocate for the interests of the people of the District of Columbia, who are represented by him as chairman of the Committee on Territories. That the Confederated Government should acknowledge slaves as property, and protect them as such, he believes to be the right of Mississippi to claim, and if she is refused he considers secession the proper course for her and every other Southern State to take.


who represents the First District in the House, was born in Central Georgia, in 1820, and was educated for the bar. Removing to Mississippi, he located himself at Aberdeen, where he now resides, and identified himself with the States Rights party at an early period of its existence. After filling several local offices, he was elected to Congress in 1857, and was placed by Speaker Orr on the Committee on Elections—a tribute to abilities for careful investigation of the complicated questions and the often contradictory evidence which accompany contests for seats. In various debates involving the question of slavery he has taken a prominent part, regarding the negro —to use his own words—" as an institution of property, of society, and of government, in the Constitution." If the constitutional rights of the South could have been protected, he would not have been a " Secessionist ;" for he openly declared in debate so recently as December, 1859: " For one, I am no disunionist per se. I am devoted to the Constitution of this Union, and so long as this Republic is a great tolerant Republic, throwing its loving arms around both sections of the country, I, for one, will bestow every talent which God has given me for its promotion and its glory. We intend to abide by it and to maintain it, and we will submit to no persistent violations of its provisions.   I do not say it for any purpose of menace, but for the purpose of defining my own position. When it is violated, persistently violated- then its spirit is no longer

observed upon this floor—I war upon your government; I am against it. I raise then the banner of secession, and I will fight under it as long as the blood flows and ebbs in my veins."


the Representative from the Second District, is the son of a Virginian who fought under General Washington in the revolutionary struggle, and who removed in 1813 to Tennessee, where Reuben was born in January, 1813. After acquiring such an education as the limited means of his father permitted, he went to Alabama, and thence to Mississippi, where he studied medicine and practiced a short time. Returning to Alabama he read law, as a profession more congenial to his tastes, and was admitted to the bar at Tuscaloosa, after which he removed to Aberdeen, in Mississippi, where he has since resided. In 1835 and in 1837 he was chosen District Attorney for the Sixth Judicial District, and in 1842 he was appointed to a seat on the bench of the State High Court of Errors. In 1847 he was chosen colonel of the Second Mississippi Regiment, which did not arrive in season for the battle of Buena Vista, but was retained by General Taylor in the column under his command until the expiration of its term of service. In 1851 Colonel Davis took a prominent position among the States Rights men, who received the sobriquet of " fire-eaters," and in 1855 was elected to the State Legislature on that platform. Elected to Congress in 1857, he has been a useful member of the Committee on Postal Affairs, and has mingled freely in prominent debates, his marked personal resemblance to Daniel Webster making him an object of prominent regard by strangers from New England. Mrs. Davis, it may not be amiss to state, is the writer of some of the sweetest poems (signed " Hinda") contributed to Southern literature, and shares with her husband the warm esteem of devoted friends in every section of this Union, which he has never hesitated to express his regard for, as protected by the Constitution. Yet he has ever warned his Northern friends that Mississippi will maintain her rights if the " irrepressible conflict" can not be honorably stopped. " We, Sir," said he, in a speech delivered over a year since, " will resist. We are the descendants of a revolutionary ancestry, who spilled their blood like water, and spent their money without regret, to strike off the shackles of British injustice and legislative tyranny; and we will sacrifice our lives, burn our houses, and convert our sunny South—now beautiful as a garden of flowers, rich in soil, and yielding to agricultural industry the abundance which has given to the North and the world its present commercial and national prosperity—into a wilderness waste. We will do it, Sir, at the hazard of bringing upon the world bankruptcy and ruin, famine and pestilence, lamentation and mourning."


 the popular member from the Third Representative District of Mississippi, was born on the 21st of August, 1821, in Rutherford County, Tennessee, at the homestead from which his father had gone, in the war of 1812, to fight the battles of the Confederacy. After receiving his education at the Nashville University, William removed to Columbus, Mississippi, where he read law, and was admitted to the bar before he was of age. Entering upon a successful practice, he also conducted the Columbus Democrat, in which he sustained the doctrine of Jefferson and Madison, that the right to judge of "infractions of the Constitution, as well as the mode and measure of redress," has never been delegated to the Federal Government, and consequently each State has the right of peaceable secession. In 1847 he went to Mexico, as a staff officer in the Second Mississippi Regiment, performing his arduous duties with recognized ability. Opposed to the compromise measures of 1850, he was a member of the State Convention called to discuss them in 1851; and in 1853 (the Legislature having failed to redistrict the State) he was elected to Congress on the general ticket. Since then, he has been a leading member of the States Rights wing of the Democratic party, and his frank manners, pleasing countenance, and social courtesy have given weight to his decided remarks. " Never," said he, in a speech delivered in January last, "have I desired a dissolution of this Union ; but should the Republican party obtain the control of the Government, I shall be for disunion. Heretofore its burdens have been chiefly borne by the South, as the statistics which I have before me will clearly prove : and we have patriotically submitted to it because of our veneration for the Union of our fathers. For the future, I would demand that all the compromises and guarantees of the Constitution shall be rigidly enforced, and I would stake the Union upon the issue. And even in the event of its dissolution, I shall have no fears for the South. With a territory larger than all of Europe; with our cotton now swelling up in value to more than two hundred million dollars; with our rice, and sugar, and tobacco; with a people united in feeling and sentiment, she has within her own borders all the elements of a splendid republic. If, then, we are to have no peace ; if these aggressions are still to be continued ; if this sectional warfare is never to cease, the South, with the strong arms and brave hearts of her gallant sons, will build up her own eternal destiny."


 the Representative from the Fourth District, was born in Jessamine County, Kentucky, and graduated at St. Joseph's College, at Bardstown in that State, after which he removed to Mississippi, where he has since been a leading member of the bar. Identifying himself with the States Rights party, he served two years in the Lower, and six years in the Upper House of the Legislature of Mississippi, during which time he took an active part in all measures calculated to develop the resources of the State, and make her an independent power. In 1852 he was elected a member of the Electoral College which gave the vote of Mississippi to Pierce and King, and the following year he was elected to Congress. In discussing the great question of the day he has ever taken what were considered such ultra Southern views that he was opposed by a more conservative

States Right Democrat at the Election for the Thirty-Sixth Congress, but in a district of 14,000 votes he was elected by a majority of 5564, showing that he represents his constituents. He has never hesitated in proclaiming that, in his opinion, the election of a Republican President would bring on resistance at the South, and in 1859 announced in debate that the only plan for preserving the Union was this : " You of the North must recede at once from the position you have taken; throw open the Territories to us ; acknowledge our right to settle them ; declare to the world that, if a Territory apply for admission as a slave State, you will at once, and without any reservation, admit her; execute the Fugitive Slave Law; however unpleasant it may be to you, give assurance to the people of the South, that when their slaves run away, you will, at least, interpose no obstacles to their recovery ; cease your eternal war upon this institution, and then we may expect the storm to subside, the political waters to recede, and the vessel of state to right herself, and dance gayly away before a prosperous breeze. I am no prophet, nor the son of a prophet; but I tell you that, unless you do this, unless you desist from the course which you are pursuing, the historian now lives who will write the sad epitaph of 'I lium  fuit' upon the monument of the nation."


Representative from the Fifth District, was born where he now resides, in Wayne County, Mississippi. about the time that State was admitted into the Union. Receiving a thorough education, he was admitted to the bar, and so distinguished himself as an advocate that he was sent to the State Legislature soon after attaining his majority. Repeatedly re-elected, and twice chosen Speaker, he was, in 1850 transferred to the Senate, and in 1854 was elected Governor, succeeding Hon. Henry S. Foote. While in the gubernatorial chair he distinguished himself in advancing the internal improvements of the State, in perfecting her educational system, and in developing her mechanical interests. After the death of the lamented Quit-man, Governor McRae was elected as his successor, and took his seat during the second session of the Thirty-Fifth Congress. During the prolonged contest which resulted in the election of Mr. Pennington as Speaker of the Thirty-Sixth Congress, he took an active part in the exciting debates; and his prolonged catechising of Mr. Carter of New York, on the tenets of the Republican party, in a good-natured yet determined manner, was a feature of the struggle. For himself, he not only deemed slavery national, but " a universal constitution of God and man, nature and Christianity, earth and heaven—having its origin in the law of God, sustained by the Bible, sustained by Christianity, sustained by the laws of all nations, sustained. by all history in all parts of the world."


THE crime of high treason is unfamiliar to our courts and juries ; the very word—treason—is not understood by the bulk of our people—so calm and peaceful has been our national life during the past two generations.

"Treason against the United States," says the Constitution (Art. 3, Sect. 3), " shall consist only in levying war; against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." A subsequent clause in the Constitution empowered Congress to pronounce the penalty of treason, which it did in the statute of April 30, 1790, declaring that persons convicted of treason should " suffer death," and that persons " adjudged guilty of misprision of treason"—that is to say, persons who knew of the treason and did not make it known to the authorities—should be "imprisoned not exceeding seven years, and fined not exceeding $1000." This is the law of treason in the United States.

There is but one very famous case of treason in our judicial records—that of Aaron Burr.

Fifty-six years have elapsed since Burr committed the acts which led to his trial. He had been Vice-President of the United States, and had vainly hoped to be President. He not only failed in that project, but on the re-election of Jefferson was set aside as Vice, and Clinton, of New York, chosen in his stead; he failed again in his effort to become Governor of this State. It was the smart of these defeats which set him plotting. His scheme was to establish an independent government west of the Alleghenies, which should include Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, the Territory of Louisiana (out of which we have since made the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, and Kansas), and part of Mexico. Some of his letters and confessions justify the belief that the form of government he proposed to adopt was monarchical, with himself as sovereign, and New Orleans as his capital. At any rate, it is certain that he looked to the secession of the States and Territories mentioned, to the acquisition of part of Mexico, and to the consolidation of a great empire on the banks of the Mississippi. He proceeded so far with his enterprise as to collect bodies of men in various places, to seize some military posts, to secure the confederation of certain dissatisfied officers of the army and navy, and to enter into negotiations with some foreign Powers, whose aid he proposed to secure by allowing them peculiar commercial privileges. From the contemporaneous accounts of his proceedings it would seem that he obtained very

considerable encouragement from the people of the Territories of Mississippi and Louisiana. It is supposed that the pulse of Jackson was felt, for in a letter to Claiborne he says : "I hate the Dons, and would like to see Mexico reduced; but I would die in the last ditch before I would see the Union disunited." But at Frankfort, Kentucky, where Burr was arrested by a zealous district-attorney, he was triumphantly acquitted, and honored by a public ball afterward. Matters were working favorably enough for his schemes, a considerable force had been collected on Blennerhasset Island, and newspapers were sedulously engaged in imbuing the people on the Mississippi with secessionist doctrines, when President Jefferson issued his famous proclamation against Burr. This vigorous measure turned the tide. The people, brought face to face with the emergency, naturally took the side of the Government and Loyalty. The Legislature of Ohio authorized the seizure of Burr's boats. The Legislature of Kentucky posted militia to guard the river. The Governor of Mississippi Territory called out 400 men to arrest Burr. At New Orleans several of his accomplices were arrested. The great secessionist himself was taken in Mississippi, sent to Richmond, Virginia, and there tried for high treason. Chief Justice Marshall presided, and charged the jury that there was no evidence of there having been any assemblages of men in armies to resist the Government, and no evidence to connect Burr with the gatherings which had taken place on Blennerhasset Island. If the Government had proved that there had been assemblages of men in arms, instigated by Burr, and intending to resist the Government, it would seem that he would have been convicted and hanged.

This famous case is the only precedent in our reports which sheds any light on the law of treason in the United States.

Within the past few days the painful subject has been agitated in legal and social circles. Persons have been summoned before the Grand Jury in New York for shipping arms to Alabama and South Carolina. A collector is said to have been arrested in South Carolina for protesting his willingness to pay over duties to the United States Government. Affidavits have been laid before the Supreme Court charging ex-members of the Cabinet and ex-Senators with treason. If the present controversy be not adjusted by a compromise our courts will soon be busily engaged in cases of treason.

Two rather interesting legal questions have been suggested by recent events:

I. What is "levying war" against the United States? Blackstone says (Book IV., p. 81) that war may be levied by " taking arms to reform the, laws, to remove evil counselors, or other grievances whether real or pretended . . .To resist the king's forces by defending a castle against them is a levying of war ; and so is an insurrection with a view to pull down all inclosures, and the like." Chief-Justice Marshall said " If a body of men be actually assembled for the purpose of effecting by force a treasonable purpose, all those who perform any part, however minute, or however remote from the scene of action, and who are actually leagued in the general conspiracy, are to be considered as traitors."

2. What is "adhering adhering to the enemies of the United States, giving them aid and comfort?" Blackstone (Book IV., p. 82) says that "giving the enemy intelligence, sending him provisions, selling him arms," is giving him aid and comfort.

The authority of Blackstone is the more important as the clause in the Constitution above quoted was, as we learn from Curtis on the Constitution (Book IV., Chap. xii., p. 384), taken verbatim from the great English statute, 25 Edward III. cap. 2, upon which Blackstone's commentary is based.




of Massachusetts, recommends, in his last Message, that the dome of the Boston State House be gilded. That dome is the most conspicuous object as you approach the city; and it is seen from all the neighboring heights, as the dome of St. Peter's is seen from the villas about Rome. Boston also sits upon its three hills, dark and massive, like a feudal baron ; and the gilded dome would be only like a glittering crown, reminding the feudatory villages around of the grandeur of their lord. That lord ought to be proud of his subjects, for no city in the world had ever a more thrifty, prosperous, intelligent neighborhood of villages, which overlap and run into each other, contented with themselves and proud of the whole.

Now if, some winter morning, when you wish to get a little nearer to the secret of that thrift and character, you take one of the trains that are incessantly departing westward from Boston, after crossing the Back Bay, and gliding through the gardens of Brookline and Brighton, skirting the valley of the Charles River, you will find yourself in the pretty village of West Newton. it is white and wooden, and neat and cheerful, especially as you see it the next moment from the comfortable robes, wrapped in which you are slipping along the road behind it solid pair of horses, making music as they go. A few moments bring you to the road which winds above a broad basin of the Charles,



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