1Davis is speaking before all the details of his
government have been formulated.
2Like members of the Second Continental
Congress with respect to Great Britain, the
Southern states considered themselves to
be an independent nation or people.
Jeff erson Davis’s Inaugural Address
February 18, 1861
Even before the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln (1809–1865), a number of Southern
states had seceded and selected their own president. Jeff erson Davis (1808–1889) was a
former Mississippi congressman and one-time secretary of war, who sought both to justify
the separation and to stress the manner in which he believed that the new government
was more consistent with the original Constitution of 1787. The speech is especially notable
for its many invocations of God.
Gentlemen of the Congress of the Confederate States of America,
Friends, and Fellow-citizens: Called to the diffi cult and responsible
station of Chief Magistrate of the Provisional Government which
you have instituted, I approach the discharge of the duties assigned
to me with humble distrust of my abilities, but with a sustaining con-
fi dence in the wisdom of those who are to guide and aid me in the
administration of public aff airs, and an abiding faith in the virtue and
patriotism of the people. Looking forward to the speedy establish-
ment of a permanent government to take the place of this ,
by its greater moral and physical power will be better able to combat
with many diffi culties that arise from the confl icting interests of sep-
arate nations, I enter upon the duties of the offi ce to which I have
been chosen with the hope that the beginning of our career, as a Con-
federacy, may not be obstructed by hostile opposition to our enjoy-
ment of the separate existence and independence we have asserted ,
and which, with the blessing of Providence, we intend to maintain.
Our present political position has been achieved in a manner unprec-
edented in the history of nations. It illustrates the American idea
that governments rest on the consent of the governed, and that it is
the right of the people to alter or abolish them at will whenever they
become destructive of the ends for which they were established. Th e
declared purpose of the compact of the Union from which we have
withdrawn was to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity,
provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and
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