JEFFERSON DAVIS — IN A LETTER TO A FORMER LOVER, PENNED JUST 7 MONTHS AFTER HIS MARRIAGE TO VARINA, RECALLS: “WHEN WE WERE TO EACH OTHER IN A DIFFERENT RELATION FROM THAT WHICH EXISTS NOW”
DAVIS, JEFFERSON. (1808-1889). First and only President of the Confederate States of America (1861-1865). Superb Autograph Letter Signed, “Jefferson Davis”. Four full pages, small quarto. Washington, D.C., September 24, 1854. Very fine condition. To Mrs. Mary Stewart. Davis writes:
“My dear Madam, I would bless the occasion which has had you to write to me did it bring the opportunity to show how gratefully I remember your uniform kindness and friendly consideration when we were to each other in a different relation from that which exists between us now. Among the many changes which time has made within me, there has been none which could render me regardless of a true friend; a jewel I have found to be so rare and so needful as age strips from us one after another the sounds of youthful happiness, has to me acquired an additional value. You had no cause to fear that I would consider anything from you an intrusion or that the time had gone by when I could listen to details where a friend was involved.
The station of a Dep. Pay Master Genl. Is more subject to change than that of a Pay Master, and I do not think that any important change in your plans should be based upon the recent order designating California as the station of your husband.
Col. Andrews claimed Saint Louis as the station preferred of those assignable to an officer of his grade that is to say he took Saint Louis rather than go to California, Texas or New Mexico. He would have chosen Baltimore or Washington or New York I have no doubt if he had been permitted to do so, and he would have gone (if ordered) to California with probably much less regret than you feel. Perhaps he might after trying Saint Louis be willing now to exchange with Col. Stewart. The argument you make on the change of rank is strong enough to answer the purpose of an exception to the rule of rotation. If I could relieve you of your anxiety by going to California myself, I would fully do it, but it is useless to state what cannot be and subject me too to the inquiry whether if a Paymaster Genl. should have the same feeling.
Believe me dear Madam that whatever I can rightfully do I will willingly perform to oblige you, were otherwise disposed to exceed this limit I should be restrained by the conviction that to yield a point of duty would be to sink in your esteem.
I hope to see Col. Stewart when he arrives here and will take an opportunity to converse with him freely, as my high respect and regard for him will render desirable. To you will be left the task you have imposed on yourself of stating how you have advocated the case, were I to speak of it my judgment would be forcibly and well.
Hoping some time to write to you when I can say only that which you will be more content to hear I am as ever gratefully and truly your friend, Jefferson Davis”.
Davis served as a lieutenant in the Black Hawk War under colonel and future president Zachary Taylor, whose daughter, Sarah Knox, would become Davis’s first wife. Davis resigned his commission in 1835, and married Knox, and became a planter near Vicksburg, Mississippi, on land given to him by his brother. Less than three months later his bride died of malarial fever. Grief-stricken, Davis stayed in virtual seclusion for seven years, working and creating his farm and plantation, while reading prodigiously in constitutional law and world literature.
In 1845 Davis, running as a Democrat, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and had married Varina Howell, on February 26, 1845, at her parents’ house. [a few relatives and friends of the bride attended, and none of the groom’s family]. She was a Natchez, Mississippi, aristocrat who was 18 years his junior. In 1846 Davis resigned his seat in Congress to serve in the Mexican-American War. He became a national hero for winning the Battle of Buena Vista (1847). After returning to Mississippi severely wounded, he entered the Senate, and in 1853 President Franklin Pierce made him Secretary of War.
This letter is penned just seven months after the wedding of Jefferson and Varina. Letters of any personal content from Davis’ early pen rarely appear, and the manner in which he handles the circumstances of Mrs. Stewart’s request to him suggest, the personal connection was quite real. A letter worthy of further research. Extremely fine condition.