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Another President's Day -- for Jefferson Davis

Jefferson Davis inauguration 2-18-1861

While a few Yankees will nationally celebrate Presidents' Day Monday as the combined birthdays of notorious good guy George Washington and an early Illinois president named Abraham Lincoln. But a real celebration occurs Saturday.

That's actually a day late for the 150th anniversary of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis as head of the Confederate States of America. The celebratory day has fallen into considerable disuse since roughly Appomattox Court House.

But, hey, it's almost spring and any chance to dress up in period outfits, as long as they're not those tent-sized hoopskirts.

Born in Kentucky, Davis was a U.S. Senator from Mississippi both before and after he was, appropriately enough, Secretary of War in the Democratic administration of New Hampshire's only native-born president, Jefferson DavisFranklin Pierce (1853-57). Pierce, a lifelong alcoholic, is widely considered one of the worst presidents in American history.

Davis actually argued against secession, though he never questioned a state's right to depart the Union.

On Feb. 18, 1861, Davis began a six-year term as president of the Confederate States (see top photo). Like Jimmy Carter from Georgia some years later, Davis was a one-termer; actually, a less-than-one-termer, as he was arrested for treason by Union troops on May 10, 1865, a day that passes now without notice.

From the Union point of view, Davis was ideally suited as confederate president, being without a political party, popular appeal, anything resembling a diverse economy, foreign recognition, a strong currency, an ability to delegate or any skills for thinking beyond the moment.

Davis also possessed a keen talent for alienating others and was superb at igniting and prolonging feuds with confederate governors, who thought they possessed some political importance. That and Davis' side was totally outgunned by the industrial North.

Anyway, Saturday they'll have a march and play "Dixie" and fire off muskets and old cannons down in Montgomery, Alabama, which now has a 55% African American population.

As noted by our colleague, Richard Fausset, the 150th anniversary of Davis' inauguration is attracting much less notice than the 100th back in the civil rights era, which had some key events in Montgomery, including Rosa Parks' bus ride.

Local authorities today are more focused now on reviving economic development.

President Davis himself will not be attending, having passed away in 1889 after being superseded in the romantic South's humid glow of heroic loser status by Gen. Robert E. Lee.

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 -- Andrew Malcolm

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Photos: Library of Congress


Comments () | Archives (10)

The comments to this entry are closed.

The Confederates were traitors to the United States of America. They deserve no honor.

RIP Confederate dead. Victims of Lincoln's illegal war.

I hope the redneck confederates are burning in hell, the only place they deserve to be. For being traitors, for triggering the only civil war in America and for defending the enslaving of their fellow humans.

American Colonist were traitors to the crown. Maybe when the US Government falls because it has become a welfare state we will have another CIVIL WAR. Slavery is wrong no matter who does it. I believe we should give California back to Mexico since we stole it at the point of a gun. Now wouldn't that be liberal of us.

I am so glad you moderate this site what ever happened to "Freedom of Speech"?????

This is all part of the history of our country, and it is high time that people realize that .... there is nothing wrong with commemorating this. No one is saying they are advocates of what occurred - they are merely brining historical data into view, and what is wrong with that? Get over yourselves! Part of what is wrong with this country now is that people are ignorant of past history - read those history books and learn from it all ...

Traitor, he and the other non-military leaders of the Confederacy should have been hung at the end of the war.

Weather it be Union or Southern soldiers, there were good and bad on both sides.As with the Vietnam war many were forced to fight a war on both sides.Both sides had many black volunteers aswell.I belive in equal rights for all and that includes indiviual beliefs and freedom of speech.Let the people decided by vote whether or not they want to wear a conferate t-shirt,or a uphold a flag of their choice.In the end its God who will place judgement on who is right or wrong.The biggest problem in this country today is not north and south nor racial. Its that too many people want5 too tell others how they should live.

Why is it in on St Patricks Day everyone wants to be Irish,BUT on Martin Luther King day,WHO wants to be black? Food for thought.

Sherry, why don't you start the process by donating your property to Mexico? I am sure they will appreciate your guilt and shame. The reality is that Mexico doesn't deserve California any more than Spain or Russia deserves claim. I do agree that the US government is a basket case. It still beats the hell out of Mexico however.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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