Pressing on through severe facial pain and “unutterable griefs,” Jefferson Davis wrote his farewell speech to the U.S. Senate. His personal struggles in January 1861 (after Mississippi seceded) foreshadowed the nation’s trial by fire.
He also wrapped up loose ends in Washington, D.C. That included writing his college friend (and former U.S. senator from Iowa) George Wallace Jones.
Helping the son of a friend
A few years earlier, George Wallace Jones’s second son, William A.B. Jones, was appointed 2nd Lieutenant in the First Regiment, U.S. Cavalry. William rode a “wild spirited horse … without bridle or saddle,” resulting in a rupture.
William resigned his commission (based on a doctor’s diagnosis). Surprisingly, William recovered, and he wanted his old job back. Davis asked Secretary of War John B. Floyd to reinstate William’s commission, but there were no vacancies.
Letter to a friend
On January 20, 1861, the day before his farewell speech, Davis wrote George Wallace Jones that William wouldn’t be reappointed. Davis also shared his thoughts about secession with his old friend and political ally.
Davis wrote that Jones wouldn’t be surprised that he was leaving the Senate. He continued:
I am sorry to be separated from many true friends at the North, whose inability to secure an observance of the Constitution does not diminish our gratitude to them for the efforts they have made. The progress has been steady towards a transfer of the government into the hands of the abolitionists.
Many states like Iowa have denied our rights, disregarded their obligations, and have sacrificed their true representatives.
Jones recognized himself in Davis’s description. Two years earlier, Jones was not re-elected the U.S. Senate because he had voted for the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution.
To us, it has become a necessity to transfer our domestic institutions from hostile to friendly hands … There seems to be but little prospect that we will be permitted to do so peacefully …
I know you will sympathize with us although you cannot act with us, that we shall never find you or yours in the ranks of our enemies.
I am as ever very truly your friend,
After the speech
About three months after Jefferson Davis said goodbye to the Senate, Confederate artillerists fired upon Fort Sumter.
William A.B. Jones headed to Colorado Territory, and he never served either side during the Civil War. In contrast, both of his brothers served the Confederacy. (If you’d like to read more about William’s brothers, please click here, here, and here.)
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