1865 April 1: Jeff. Davis’ Valedictory Message to the Rebel Congress
The following article comes from the April 1, 1865, issue of The Polk County Press.
Jeff. Davis’ Valedictory Message to the Rebel Congress.
From New York files received in advance of the mail we copy, on our second page, a highly important and significant message of Jeff. Davis’ [Jefferson Davis], on the 13th inst., to the rebel Congress, the adjournment of which was postponed at his request, in order to receive this communication, the last, in all human probability, which Mr. Jefferson Davis will ever have an opportunity to deliver to the Congress of “the Confederate States,” and so self-consciously the last, indeed, that it breathes all the mournful spirit of valedictory, without its form, and all the desperate frankness of a dying confession, without its penitence.
The most sanguine ill-wisher to the rebel cause has never drawn a darker picture of the condition and prospects of the Confederacy, or demonstrated the certainty of its speedy downfall, by arguments more convincing and unanswerable than those thus officially presented in this last appeal of the rebel chief to the rebel Congress. He declares the country to be environed with perils so great, the despondency of the people to be so intense, and the capital of the Confederate States in such imminent danger, that nothing will serve to make head against the triumphant progress of the Union armies, but “the prompt and resolute devotion of the whole resources of men and money in the Confederacy.”
And he proceeds accordingly to ask the rebel Congress to grant him, as Executive of the Confederacy, absolute and unlimited dictatorial power over the lives and property of the citizens of the “Confederate States.” He asks, first, to be empowered to seize at once all the coin belonging to individuals in the country, for the purchase of supplies in districts outside the limits of Confederate authority, where Confederate currency is no longer available, and where only supplies can be had—a most pregnant admission. Then not satisfied with this proposed robbery, he asks for authority to take any other property that he wants from whom he pleases, without paying for it, or, what is the same thing, paying for it when he chooses and in what he chooses. “None believe,” says the practiced repudiator, “that this government can ever redeem in coin the obligation to pay fifty dollars a bushel for corn, or seven hundred dollars a barrel for flour.”
But he not only wants all the property of individuals placed at the disposal of his individual will, but every man’s person and life surrendered to him. He wants the conscription made universal—all exemptions abolished and the habeas corpus suspended.—This last measure he urgently presses upon his refractory Parliament, as “not simply advisable and expedient, but almost indispensable to the successful conduct of the war.”
The peril must be extreme and the circumstances desperate indeed which could constrain the rebel chief to propose these desperate and revolting expedients even in a confidential communication to his Congress, but if we want a still more graphic measure of the fearful straits to which the Rebellion is reduced, we will find it in the fact that for the second time the terrible necessities of his position, have compelled this arch-dissembler to lay aside the mask of diplomatic falsehood and to publicly avow to all the world the stern truth that his cause has failed.
Once before, at Macon last summer, a passing spasm of dispair [sic] and wrath wrung the truth from the mouth of Mr. Jefferson Davis. Then he told the people of Georgia that if they did not replenish the ranks of Hood’s army [John Bell Hood] and enable him to drive Sherman [William T. Sherman] out of Georgia the cotton States would be lost. And now he as candidly tells the rebel Congress that if he is not at once invested with the absolute control of all the men and money in the Confederacy the “sacred cause” is wholly lost. In neither case was the prescribed condition fulfilled, and as the even in the one case fulfilled the prophecy, so will it in the other. The rebel Congress refused to act upon the recommendations of Mr. Davis, and at once adjourned ‘sine dis,’ each intent upon looking after his own precious safety and leaving Mr. Davis to take care of his, with such means as were already at his disposal, and no more.