The following is Davis' speech:
Davis, Jefferson - Speech Before (a joint session of) the Mississippi Legislature in Jackson, Mississippi - 10 March 1884
FRIENDS AND BRETHREN OF MISSISSIPPI: In briefest terms, but with deepest feeling, permit me to return my thanks for the unexpected honor you have conferred on me. ...
We are now in a transition state, which is always a bad one, both in society and in nature. What is to be the result of the changes which may be anticipated it is not possible to forecast, but our people have shown such fortitude and have risen so grandly from the deep depression inflicted upon them, that it is fair to entertain bright hopes for the future. Sectional hate concentrating itself upon my devoted head, deprives me of the privileges accorded to others in the sweeping expression of "without distinction of race, color or previous condition," but it cannot deprive me of that which is nearest and dearest to my heart, the right to be a Mississippian and it is with great gratification that I received this emphatic recognition of that right by the representatives of our people. Reared on the soil of Mississippi, the ambition of my boyhood was to do something which would redound to the honor and welfare of the State. The weight of many years admonishes me that my day for actual service has passed, yet the desire remains undiminished to see the people of Mississippi prosperous and happy and her fame not unlike the past, but gradually growing wider and brighter as years roll away.
'Tis been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon, but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented. Remembering as I must all which has been suffered, all which has been lost, disappointed hopes and crushed aspirations, yet I deliberately say, if it were to do over again, I would again do just as I did in 1861. No one is the arbiter of his own fate. The people of the Confederate States did more in proportion to their numbers and means than was ever achieved by any in the world's history. Fate decreed that they should be unsuccessful in the effort to maintain their claim to resume the grants made to the Federal Government. Our people have accepted the decree; it therefore behooves them, as they may, to promote the general welfare of the Union to show the world that hereafter, as heretofore, the patriotism of our people is not measured by lines of latitude and longitude, but is as broad as the obligations they have assumed and embraces the whole of our oceanbound domain. Let them leave to their children and children's children the grand example of never swerving from the path of duty, and preferring to return good for evil rather than to cherish the unmanly feeling of revenge. But never question or teach your children to desecrate the memory of the dead by admitting that their brothers were wrong in the effort to maintain the sovereignty, freedom and independence which was their inalienable birthright. (R)emembering that the coming generations are the children of the heroic mothers whose devotion to our cause in its darkest hour sustained the strong and strengthened the weak, I cannot believe that the cause for which our sacrifices were made can ever be lost, but rather hope that those who now deny the justice of our asserted claims will learn from experience that the fathers builded wisely and the Constitution should be constructed according to the commentaries of the men who made it.
It having been previously understood that I would not attempt to do more than to return my thanks, which are far deeper than it would be possible for me to express, I will now, Senators and Representatives, and to you ladies and gentlemen, who have honored me by your attendance, bid you an affectionate, and it may be, a last farewell.
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