Friday, January 21, 2011

January 21, 1861 - Jefferson Davis and others resign from the U.S. Senate

Jefferson Davis
January 21, 1861

150 years ago today, one of the most dramatic scenes in the history of the American Republic took place on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

As their fellow senators looked on, an array of Southern senators gave their farewell speeches in the Senate Chamber. The acknowledged leader of the group was Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi:

...I am sure I feel no hostility to you, Senators from the North. I am sure there is not one of you, whatever sharp discussion there may have been between us, to whom I cannot now say, in the presence of my God, I wish you well; and such, I am sure, is the feeling of the people whom I represent towards those whom you represent. I therefore feel that I but express their desire when I say I hope, and they hope, for peaceful relations with you, though we must part. - Sen. Jefferson Davis, January 21, 1861.

Stephen Mallory
It was already rumored in Washington by January 21, 1861, that Davis would become president of a new Confederacy of the Southern states. On the date of his resignation, however, the former Secretary of War's only duty was to the independent Republic of Mississippi.

Among the other senators giving their farewell speeches that day was Senator Stephen Mallory of Florida. He would soon become the Secretary of the Navy for the Confederacy, despite his previous pro-Union sentiments. It was reported that he left the Senate Chamber that day with tears in his eyes.

Many of the departing senators visited President James Buchanan in the White House to pay their respects and give him their personal farewells. Jefferson Davis was not among them.

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