Nov 19, 2018 in Political Science

Jefferson Finis Davis was famous as the first president of the Confederate States of America, businessman, soldier, and a determined politician in the history. Jefferson was born in Kentucky on June 3, 1806, the last-born child in a family of ten children. His legacy is a result of his term as the first and the last president of the Confederate States and infamous command in the civil war. Jefferson’s father, Samuel Davis, was a Georgian plantation owner. Jefferson’s family moved to Mississippi while he was three, and his brother sent him to the Dominican boarding school at the age of seven. He later moved to the Transylvania College in Kentucky and spent four years in a military academy. Jefferson Davis graduated from the military school in 1828 and launched his military career. According to historians, his skills as a soldier were adequate as he was well educated. Jefferson served in the Black Hawk War of 1832 as a cadet for a short period. There he met Zachary Taylor, a commander and later the president of the United States of America. Later Davis met and married Sarah Taylor. Zachary Taylor opposed this union. Sarah died from malaria only in several months after their wedding marking the darkest days in Jefferson’s life.

Davis spent the next eight years in self-isolation at his cotton farm in Mississippi. Jefferson was hardly a human rights believer, and this factor was highlighted by a great number of his slaves. Davis held that the South needed slaves to ensure free labor and pulled out of the isolation by marrying Varina Howell in 1845. They had six children, four boys and two girls. Jefferson’s life took a sad turn again when the four boys died at a young age leaving him with two girls only. Davis also served as a Mississippi representative after winning the seat in the 1845 elections. The political victory marked the start of his political career. In the House of Representatives, Jefferson’s eloquence and speech mastery earned him respect and influence. His main achievements in the Congress include the conversion of forts into military schools and defense of the rights of the States. Jefferson resigned to join troops in the Mexican War in 1846, where he got injuries in the battle, but bravery in the battlefield supported his forces until the defeat of the Mexicans. It earned him respect of the Southern Americans and General Taylor, who wrote a positive report about him to President Pork. Jefferson’s victory in the war led to his promotion to a brigadier general, but he rejected it to join the United States Senate in 1847.

In 1847, Davis became a senator from Mississippi by appointment due to the unexpected demise of Senator Speight and completed the term in 1848. Jefferson later served a full term as an elected senator representing Mississippi. In the Senate, Davis made many friends increasing his influence and support for slavery. Jefferson Davis owned more than 100 slaves on a cotton plantation passed down to him by his elder brother Joseph Davis. As a senator he championed the freedom of California as a sovereign state. Jefferson resigned in 1851 to participate in a race to replace the governor of Mississippi, but lost and went back to his cotton plantation focusing on farming and advocating for the liberty of the South.

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In 1853, Davis was a secretary of war under President Franklin Pierce. Later as a president of the Confederacy, he increased payments and ensured the basic resources such as better housing, health, and educational facilities for the army. Jefferson also initiated the development of the railroad linking the inland to the Pacific to boost trade. He ensured that Washington had adequate security, water, and food. Jefferson developed shipping through rivers and harbors, initiating several constructions mainly aimed at realizing a better supply of goods to the military. As a secretary of war, Jefferson imported camels to provide transportation services to the military. Davis also facilitated funding research on new weaponry for the United States Army to get better and modern weapons compared to their enemies. Furthermore, Jefferson improved military intelligence by sending spies to the British during the Crimean War apart from advising the President on domestic issues. His reign as a secretary of war revealed his real character. He loved and adored the military, and it explained his success at that position.

President Pierce’s term ended in 1857, and Jefferson was elected back to the Senate to represent Mississippi, advocating for the strict implementation of the Constitution. Davis also supported the freedom and rights of the South to make personal decisions, but disagreed with the “secession drive”. However, Davis fought for the South aiming to maintain slavery as the main form of labor, a view that the North opposed. Jefferson’s campaign to keep all states in the Union failed in 1861, when Mississippi seceded, starting the American Civil War. He resigned as a senator and returned home. Then he accepted the position of major general and commanded the South military in the Civil War. Jefferson never agreed with the decision of the South to secede, but had to remain loyal. The decision to support the South highlights Jefferson as a real United States patriot and brave soldier. He knew that the United States would not accept the decision, stating that the South’s secession equaled “troubles and thorns innumerable”.

The Confederate States appointed Jefferson a president in February 1861 ending his military career and marking the start of his infamous presidency. The decision by the South to elect Jefferson as a president was a desperate measure as it lacked any other experienced person. Jefferson’s experience as a senator and a military leader made him the best person to take over the position. The decision also marked the official start of the American Civil War, one that he lost marking the end of his military career. Jefferson had a challenging time multitasking between conducting the war and keeping the Confederacy intact. Influential leaders, including governors, senators, and persons in the military disagreed with a multiple of his policies. The Confederacy exposed weaknesses in his character as he failed to form social and political relationships. Jefferson also failed to take criticism positively exposing pride and poor leadership skills. A democratic leader should be able to take criticism and work to solve grievances. Jefferson also accumulated more power as a president increasing the division in his government. It represents a military form of leadership and his strength rather as a military leader than as a president.

The government of the Confederate States faced several challenges that led to the defeat and end of the American Civil War. It failed to raise enough money to pay for the war. Therefore, soldiers were underpaid and lacked resources such as guns and medicines. Foreign governments did not approve the confederation government reducing revenue from international trade. Governors and judges continuously interfered with his appointments, including those in the military. The loyalty of the Southern people also began to fade as the army suffered defeats from the North. Jefferson also directed public resources to the military, leading to poor public services and criticism. Despite the problems, Davis demonstrated rare leadership skills raising a strong army and quickly molding government structures in a new union. Jefferson’s appointment of General Robert Lee as a commander of the Virginia army ensured the continuity of the Civil War. His ability to hold on attacks from the North and political criticism at home demonstrates him as a strong leader.

General Lee surrendered to the United States forces under Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Jefferson was captured by the Northern forces in Georgia on May 1865. He served a two-year prison time in Fort Monroe for treason. In 1867, Jefferson was released on bail and moved to Canada and Europe before his death on December 6, 1889 in Louisiana.

In conclusion, Jefferson Davis’ legacy lies in his policies as a president of the Confederate States. His character demonstrates him as a great and patriotic military leader. Jefferson won all his military conquests, except the Civil War, and patriotically supported the Mississippi people through the secession process, though he disagreed with the separation. Jefferson demonstrated his leadership skills as a secretary of war strengthening and providing resources to the United States military. His character also demonstrates the lack of support for race equality as he supported slavery of African-Americans and their exploitation for free labor. The South decision to elect Jefferson as a president of the Confederacy highlights their faith in his leadership skills.

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