Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Address 7
3Whereas Northerners generally interpreted
the Constitution as laying the foundation
for a nation, Southerners tended to inter-
pret the document as a compact among
independent states, who had the authority
to withdraw when they no longer believed
it was accomplishing its purposes.
4Davis is arguing that there is no need for
war between North and South because
they consist of diff erent economies, the
North depending chiefl y on manufacturing
and navigation and the South depending
chiefl y on agriculture.
secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity;” and
when, in the judgment of the sovereign States composing this Con-
federacy, it has been perverted from the purposes for which it was
ordained, and ceased to answer the ends for which it was established,
a peaceful appeal to the ballot box declared that, so far as they are
concerned, the Government created by that compact should cease to
exist. In this they merely asserted the right which the Declaration of
Independence of July 4, 1776, defi ned to be “inalienable.” Of the time
and occasion of its exercise they as sovereigns were the fi nal judges,
each for itself. Th e impartial and enlightened verdict of mankind
will vindicate the rectitude of our conduct; and He who knows the
hearts of men will judge of the sincerity with which we have labored
to preserve the Government of our fathers in its spirit.
Th e right solemnly proclaimed at the birth of the United States,
and which has been solemnly affi rmed and reaffi rmed in the Bills
of Rights of the States subsequently admitted into the Union of
1789, undeniably recognizes in the people the power to resume the
authority delegated for the purposes of government. Th us the sov-
ereign States here represented have proceeded to form this Con-
federacy; and it is by abuse of language that their act has been
denominated a revolution. Th ey formed a new alliance, but within
each State its government has remained; so that the rights of person
and property have not been disturbed. Th e agent through which they
communicated with foreign nations is changed, but this does not
necessarily interrupt their international relations. Sustained by the
consciousness that the transition from the former Union to the pres-
ent Confederacy has not proceeded from a disregard on our part of
just obligations, or any, failure to perform every constitutional duty,
moved by no interest or passion to invade the rights of others, anx-
ious to cultivate peace and commerce with all nations, if we may not
hope to avoid war, we may at least expect that posterity will acquit us
of having needlessly engaged in it. Doubly justifi ed by the absence of
wrong on our part, and by wanton aggression on the part of others,
there can be no cause to doubt that the courage and patriotism of
the people of the Confederate States will be found equal to any mea-
sure of defense which their honor and security may require. An agri-
cultural people, whose chief interest is the export of commodities
required in every manufacturing country, our true policy is peace,
and the freest trade which our necessities will permit. It is alike our
interest and that of all those to whom we would sell, and from whom
we would buy, that there should be the fewest practicable restrictions
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