The Inaugural of "President" Davis
Utica Morning Herald and Daily Gazette, February 20, 1861
JEFFERSON DAVIS is a disciple of "grim visaged war." He believes—or pretends to believe—that it is the chief end of man to cut his neighbor's throat. He looks upon the invention of gunpowder as a far greater beneficence to the world than the invention of the printing press. According to his notions, mankind are divided into two classes—those who kill and those who are to be killed. His soul revels in dreams of conflict—in visions of ensanguined fields, in fierce onslaughts and rude encounters, in bombardments and sieges, in torrents of blood flowing from towns put to the sword. He lives, breathes and has his being in an atmosphere of military ardor. He pants for glory as a toper pants for his morning dram. He longs for the time when he shall be able to doff the toga of the civilian, and don the harness of the warrior. He is "spilin'" for a fight. He is continually itching for a chance to pitch into somebody—to get into a row with somebody—to go to war with somebody—to restore the good old times when one may play the butcher to his heart's content without running the risk of an introduction to the gallows.
Hence, our knowledge of the man diminishes our surprise at the character of what he fancifully chooses to designate as his "Inaugural." He stands upon a military plane. He rides a military hobby. He looks through military eyes. He regards public questions through the crimson medium of warlike predelictions. He speaks less as a civilian than as a hero. He evidently believes that the great problem of negro-driving independence is to be solved by arms.—He believes that the Southern Confederacy must be baptized in blood before it can ever attain permanent vitality. He believes that the North is to be subdued by the strong arm. He told us, the other day, that our territories would be invaded and our cities sacked, in the event of war breaking out.
What shall we say of his Inaugural? The literature of statesmanship has produced nothing like it. As an aesthetical performance it is quite unique. As a military pronunciamento it is worthy of a Mexican general. Its style is eminently Lippard-ian in intensity. It glows with red hot brimstone. It actually smells of gunpowder. It is eloquent, flippant, blasphemous, bombastic, nonsensical. It talks glibly about Southern Rights; quotes the Declaration of Independence (GOD save the mark!); rehearses the grievances under which the fire-eaters have so long and so patiently suffered; recommends the building of a navy for purposes of defense or aggression; modestly urges the annihilation of Northern commerce in the event of war;—and piously relies upon the "justice of our cause" for a final and decisive victory over the weak and distracted North.
What strikes us as pleasantly characteristic of this manifesto, is its eminently religious tone.—An air of piety surrounds it like a halo. It breathes the very essence of godliness. One would suppose that its author was at least a life member of the society for the spread of Gospel Faith. It tells us that the Black Confederacy has been originated under the immediate sanction and "blessing of Providence," and adds that it will be maintained by the same Divine Backer. Then it favors us with the gratifying assurance that the "enlightened verdict of mankind (1) will vindicate the rectitude" of the seceders, and that "He who knows the hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we (the rebels) labor to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit." The close of this most evangelical of State papers is worthy of EUSUBIUS or ST. JEROME:
Reverently let us invoke the God of our fathers to guide and provide and protect us in our efforts to perpetuate the principles which, by His blessing, they were able to vindicate, establish and transmit to their posterity, and with a continuance of His favor, ever gratefully acknowledged, we may hopefully look forward to success, to hope, to peace, to prosperity.
Considering that the sole and avowed object of the new Confederacy in setting up for itself is to found a great slaveholding power, the above is not so bad.
The tone of the Inaugural toward the General Government is contemptuous and insulting. It speaks of it in the most flippant and disrespectful terms. It puts it upon its trial, arraigns it for high crimes and misdemeanors, defies its vengeance, and threatens, in the event of its attempting to recover its stolen property, to blow it out of water! It assumes toward it an air of superciliousness—affects toward it a tone of superiority—cracks the whip over its head—as if it were the mere chattel and plaything of its pleasure.
Mr. DAVIS, of course, scouts the idea of reconstruction. Other States are kindly invited to join the Southern "happy family;" the Border States are given to understand that they may be permitted to enjoy the untold blessings of —the new Utopia; but "union with the States from which they have separated is neither practicable nor desirable."
We assume from the tone of this Inaugural, as well as from the general spirit of the Montgomery Convention, that the secessionists are in earnest in their effort to set up business on their own hook. While great allowance is to be made for buncombe and bluster, we must admit that the demonstration of six States forming themselves into a compact Confederacy, is one which we can not afford to sneer down. The controversy has assumed proportions which may well appal and discourage. Will Congress and the incoming Administration prove equal to the fearful emergency?