Jefferson Davis

Among the earliest settlers of Todd County was Samuel Davis, an old Revolutionary soldier, who came from Georgia and settled in what is now Fairview, just east of the Christian County line. Here, in a log-cabin still standing, his son Jefferson was born June 3, 1808. Several years later the family removed to Wilkinson County, Miss., where the father became a cotton planter. Jefferson Davis was early placed at the Transylvania University, where he remained until his sixteenth year. In 1824 he received an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point, where he met Robert E. Lee, Joseph E. Johnston, Leonidas Polk and others who afterward became distinguished in the service of the Confederacy. Graduating in 1828, Davis was as-signed to duty on the northwestern frontier, and in 1832 was advanced to the position of First Lieutenant. In the following year he was made Adjutant of a regiment of dragoons, and after serving through the Black-hawk war and other Indian disturbances, he resigned his commission and settled down to the life and retirement of a cotton planter. Eight years later he emerged from the seclusion of his plantation as a delegate to the State Democratic Convention, and in the following year ” stumped ” the country as elector. He championed the extreme ” States’ Rights” doctrine from the first, a dogma around which his political principles have at all times revolved. In 1845 he was elected to the lower house of Congress, where he rose rapidly in the estimation of his colleagues and constituency. He took a prominent part in the debates of the House, displaying an independence of action, a refinement of speech and a breadth of thought that brought him to the favorable notice of members of all parties. While serving in Congress be was appointed Colonel of the First Mississippi Regiment, enlisted for the Mexican war. He immediately resigned his seat in Congress, and with his regiment repaired to the Rio Grande in the summer of 1846. During his term of service he distinguished himself for gallantry and won the favorable mention of his superiors in general orders. In 1847 he was appointed by the Governor of his State to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate, caused by the death of Gen. Speight. He was afterward elected by the Legislature and served until 1851, appearing in the Senate to quite as great advantage as formerly in the House. At this time he resigned his seat at the request of his fellow-citizens to make a hopeless race for Governor, in opposition to the ” Compromise of 1850,” in which he was defeated. He was an ardent supporter of Franklin Pierce for the Presidency in 1852, and on his election was given the portfolio of Secretary of War in the new ad-ministration. While still holding his position in Mr. Pierce’s Cabinet, he was elected to the United States Senate, and took his seat March 4, 1857. With the inauguration of Buchanan’s administration began the political movements which ushered in the great civil war. In all the storm of de-bate which followed on the Kansas-Nebraska measures, Mr. Davis bore an active and leading part, as one of the exponents of the extreme States’ Rights doctrine adopted by one faction of his party. His speeches were accepted as the authoritative expression of the position and determination of this ultra wing of the Democratic party, and created a profound sensation throughout the nation. On January 9, 1861, Mississippi passed the ordinance of secession, and on the 21st of that month he withdrew from his seat in the Senate. He was at once placed in command of the militia of the State, and proceeded to place it on a war basis. February 5, 1861, he was chosen President of ” The Confederate States of America” by the convention of delegates from the seceding States assembled at Montgomery, Ala. In. the same month he was inaugurated and formed his Government; and in the May following the seat of Government was moved to Richmond, Va., where it remained to the end. Mr. Davis remained to the last a sanguine believer in the eventual success of the cause in which he had embarked, notwithstanding the discouraging view of many of his associates from the beginning. The final collapse buried in its ruins all his hopes and ambitions; and unable, in the very constitution of his mind, to accept the logic of events, his occupation gone, he has placed himself in an attitude hostile to the best interests of that section of which he was once the foremost champion. ” ‘Tis much he dared;” but unfortunately, he lacked the “wisdom that doth guide his valor, to act in safety?.’.’ The ” piping times of peace ” that have intervened have brought great changes to Todd County. The enfranchisement of the Negro has alienated many of the Union men from their associates of those “troublous times,” and some of the bitterest opponents to the National party of politics are those who, in 1861, were stanchest in their devotion to the National cause. By the addition of the egro vote the Republican party is a vigorous minority, but the Democratic party bears unquestioned sway, not as adherents to the “lost cause,” but as opposed to the rule of the great mass of ignorance and non-property holders of the county.


Battle, J. H., W. H. Perrin, Counties of Todd and Christian, Kentucky : historical and biographical, Chicago : F. A. Battey Publishing Co., 1884.

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