Jefferson Davies, The Negroes And The Negro Problem by Walter Fleming


Excerpt is from the first two paragraphs of the book itself:

If the question were asked, What were the views of Jefferson Davis concerning the negroes? many people would now as in 1861 unhesitatingly answer that he, like the most extreme of the slave-holders, looked upon the negro as nothing but a form of property somewhat more valuable than horseflesh, and that he considered the race hopelessly inferior and incapable of progress and therefore doomed to the permanent status of slavery. Some of his speeches in Congress would seem to commit him to this view. Yet such an impression would be almost wholly incorrect. His dealings with the race and his private utterances show that he regarded the negro as quite capable of reaching a higher civilization, that he believed slavery to be a more or less temporary status and that he was a most considerate master. In his opinion, slavery was not only a temporary solution of the labor problem in the newly settled South, but it was also a partial solution of what we now call the race problem - the problem of how to make two distinct races live together without friction. That the negro race was fundamentally inferior to the white was his firm conviction. That there was any moral wrong in holding slaves, he, in company with most of the slave-holders, would never admit. By him, as by most men of his class, then as now, slavery was considered a benefit to the negro and a recognition of that law of nature which subjected the weaker to the stronger for the good of both. Slavery took idle, unmoral, barbarous blacks and gradually rooted out their savage traits, giving to them instead the white man's superior civilization - his religion, his language, his customs, his industry. The negro was a child race and slavery was its training school. These convictions shaped his attitude toward the individuals of the race. And never were there more intimate friendships between whites and blacks than between Davis and his servants, as he always called his slaves.

Davis was with and always popular young people, dependents and inferiors. When serving in the army among the Indians he was so well liked that in one tribe he was adopted known as "The Little Chief." As Mrs.Davis said, "he never had with soldiers, children or negroes any difficulty to impress himself upon their hearts." In his intercourse with them he assumed that were reasonable beings, able and willing to follow a proper line of conduct, and capable of understanding mistakes when pointed out to them. Blind obedience was never exacted. To children and to negroes he carefully explained the reasons for doing or not a doing thing satisfied until the understanding was complete. Like his oldest brother, Joseph, he was so careful to regard the rights of the weak that others found it difficult to keep order with his children and servants. From him the black skin never hid the man or woman. He was as polite to a negro as to a white person. Of this trait of Davis' s character Major R. W. Milsaps, founder of the Mississippi college that bears his name, recently related the following incident: "I got a lesson in the treatment of negroes when I was a young man returning South from Harvard. I stopped in Washington and called on Jefferson Davies, then United States Senator from Mississippi. We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. Many negroes bowed to Mr.Davies and he returned the bow. He was a very polite man. I finally said to him that I thought he must have a good many friends among the negroes. He replied, 'I cannot allow any negro to outdo me in courtesy.'"

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