Without doubt, there are others who have done a far better job writing about the importance of the 2008 elections than I ever could. They’ve talked about the incredible voter turnout. They have spoken eloquently concerning the call, by the American people, for a change in leadership and a new direction. And, of course, they’ve highlighted the historical significance of America electing its first African-American President. I wouldn’t, for a moment, try to match words with any of them.
But since we’re on the subject, let’s talk briefly about another elected President…Jefferson. No, not Thomas Jefferson. And no, not the President of the United States. On November 6, 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected as the first (and only) President of the Confederate States of America.
As a U.S. Senator from Mississippi, he believed that each state had the right to secede from the Union, though he strongly opposed the action. But the ears of his fellow Southerners were to his words as stone, and the Union dissolved. Davis’ home state seceded in January of 1861, and Davis resigned from the Senate and returned home, where he joined the army.
When the southern “states” held their Constitutional convention in February of the same year, Davis was named the provisional President of the Confederate States, a position that would become official with the returns from the election held on this day in 1861.
By then, the Civil War was in full swing but, just four years later, the Confederate government would dissolve under the pressure from the Northern armies, the sacking and subsequent capture of the Confederate capital, and the surrender of General Lee. Jefferson Davis’ 6-year term as President would end about 2 years early, and that time would be mostly spent in jail, reflecting on his tenure as one of the two leaders of the Divided States of America.
Recommended reading: April 1865: The Month That Saved America