The Election of Jefferson Davis

The Jefferson Davis Memorial, Richmond, Virginia

 

If the Confederacy fails, there should be written on its tombstone: Died of a Theory.

Jefferson Davis

On this day in 1861 the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America elected Jefferson Davis as its president.

Davis represented Mississippi in the United States Senate and House of Representatives prior to becoming president of the Confederacy. He also served as United States Secretary of War under U.S. President Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1857.

Davis was born in Kentucky, but grew up on his brother’s large cotton plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana. Prior to the Civil War, he operated a large cotton plantation in Mississippi where he owned over seventy slaves.

Davis opposed secession, he believed in the states’ right to leave the Union. He was not considered an effective leader and some consider that to be the reason for the weakness of the Confederacy.

Davis was captured in 1865 after fleeing the fall of Richmond. Accused of treason, he was imprisoned for two years at Fort Monroe. By the late 1880s, Davis encouraged reconciliation and called for Southerners to be loyal to the Union.

Davis died on December 5, 1889. Although initially laid to rest in New Orleans in the Army of Northern Virginia mausoleum at Metairie Cemetery, in 1893 Davis was re-interred in Richmond, Virginia at Hollywood Cemetery, per his widow’s request.

 

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William and Mary

On this day in 1693 the College of William and Mary was founded under a royal charter “make, found and establish a certain Place of Universal Study, a perpetual College of Divinity, Philosophy, Languages, and other good arts and sciences…to be supported and maintained, in all time coming.”

It was named for reigning monarchs King William III and Queen Mary II and is the second oldest college in the United States (after Harvard University, 1636) and the oldest in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

According to Wikipedia: William & Mary educated American Presidents Thomas Jefferson (third), James Monroe (fifth), and John Tyler (tenth) as well as other key figures important to the development of the nation, including the fourth U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall of Virginia, Speaker of the House of Representatives Henry Clay of Kentucky, sixteen members of the Continental Congress, and four signers of the Declaration of Independence, earning it the nickname “the Alma Mater of the Nation.”

In other news, American composer, conductor, and pianist, John Williams, was born on this day in 1932. Williams is known and recognized for film scores that include the Star Wars series, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman: The Movie, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, the first two Home Alone films, the first two Jurassic Park films, Schindler’s List, and the first three Harry Potter films.

The Soviet Union Dissolves

On this day in 1990, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union agreed to give up its monopoly of power based on the recommendation of General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev.

In the aftermath, fifteen of the constituent republics of the USSR held their first competitive elections. the CPSU lost six of those republics.

According to Wikipedia:

The constituent republics began to declare their national sovereignty and began a “war of laws” with the Moscow central government; they rejected union-wide legislation that conflicted with local laws, asserted control over their local economy and refused to pay taxes. President Landsbergis of Lithuania also exempted Lithuanian men from mandatory service in the Soviet Armed Forces. This conflict caused economic dislocation as supply lines were disrupted, and caused the Soviet economy to decline further.

All that is Gold

All that is gold does not glitter.

J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings

On this day in 1848, James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill, in Coloma, California, leading to the California Gold Rush which would last until 1848.

The influx of gold revived the American economy and led to Califorinia becoming one of the few American states to go dirctly to statehood without first being a territory. Prospectors drew the gold from streams and riverbeds by panning.

Not all about the Gold Rush was cheery. Gold-seekers called “forty-niners” attacked and pushed whole indigenous societies off of their lands.

A few of the gold-seekers became wealthy, but many returned home with nothing more than what they started with.

Peace With Honor

On this day in 1973 U.S. President Richard M. Nixon declared the end to the Vietnam War. The phrase was a variation of a 1968 campaign promise in which Nixon said “I pledge to you that we shall have an honorable end to the war in Vietnam.”

The treaty of the Paris Peace Accord specified that a cease fire would take place four days later.

On March 29, 1973, the last U.S. solider left Vietnam. Saigon fell to North Vietnamese troops on April 30, 1975.

Peace Without Victory

Woodrow Wilson announces to Congress on February 3, 1917 that official relations with the German Empire have ceased. (Wikimedia Commons)

On this day in 1917, prior to the United States’ entry into World War I, President Woodrow Wilson addressed the Senate and called for “peace without victory” to settle the European conflict.

Wilson said “The present war must first be ended; but we owe it to candor and to a just regard for the opinion of mankind to say that, so far as our participation in guarantees of future peace is concerned, it makes a great deal of difference in what way and upon what terms it is ended. The treaties and agreements which bring it to an end must embody terms which will create a peace that is worth guaranteeing and preserving, a peace that will win the approval of mankind, not merely a peace that will serve the several interests and immediate aims of the nations engaged. We shall have no voice in determining what those terms shall be, but we shall, I feel sure, have a voice in determining whether they shall be made lasting or not by the guarantees of a universal covenant; and our judgment upon what is fundamental and essential as a condition precedent to permanency should be spoken now, not afterwards when it may be too late.” Full Text.

A little more than two months later, Wilson addressed Congress to request permission to declare war against Germany. A formal declaration of war was issued on April 6, 1917. The war would end the following November. By the end of the war 116,708 American military lives and 757 U.S. civilians would die from all causes associated with the war (influenza, combat, and wounds).