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REPUDIATION, RECOGNITION, AND SLAVERY,
London, 10, Half Moon Street, Piccadilly,
July 1st, 1863. Soon after my arrival in London from New York, my attention was called, by some English, as well as American friends, to an article which had appeared more than a month previously in the London “ Times” of the 23rd of March last. In the Money Article of that date, is the following letter from the Hon. John Slidell, the Minister of Jefferson Davis at Paris.
My dear Sir,
I have yours of yesterday. I am inclined to think the people of London confound Mr. Reuben Davis, whom I have always understood to have taken the lead on the question of repudiation, with President Jefferson Davis. I am not aware that the latter was in any way identified with that question. I am very confident that it was not agitated during his canvass for Governor, or during his administration. The Union bank bonds were issued in direct violation of an express constitutional provision. There is a wide difference between these bonds, and those of the Planters' bank, for the repudiation of which, neither excuse nor palliation can be offered. I feel confident that Jefferson Davis never approved or justified that repudiation. What may have been his private opinions of the refusal to consider the State of Mississippi bound to provide for the payment of the Union bank bonds, I do not know.
It is due to the Editor of the “ Times" here to state, that, in his money article of the 23rd March last, he refers to the controversy of that press with Jefferson Davis on that question, in 1849, and, as regards the suggestion of Mr. Slidell, that it might have been Reuben Davis who was the repudiator in 1849, instead of Jefferson Davis, the Editor remarked, “it is to be feared that the proof in the other direction is too strong." Indeed, the Editor might well be astonished at the supposition, that Jefferson Davis, who subscribed the repudiation letter in question of the 25th May, 1849, as well as a still stronger communication of the 29th August, 1849, should have been confounded, during a period of near fourteen years, by the press of Europe and America, with Reuben Davis, and that the supposed mistake should just now be discovered, especially as Reuben Davis never was a Senator of the United States from Mississippi, or from any other State.
I was asked if it really was Reuben or Jefferson Davis who was the author of the letter in question advocating the repudiation of the Union bank bonds of Mississippi, their recollection being, that it was the latter. I said that the repudiation letter in question of the 25 May, 1849, was subscribed and published at its date in the “ Washington Union,” Jefferson Davis as a Senator of the United States from Mississippi, which position he then held, that he was personally well known to me for nearly a fourth of a century, as was also Reuben Davis, and that the latter never had been a Senator of the
United States from Mississippi, or any other State, as was well known to me, and would be shown by reference to the Journals of the United States Senate. I stated, that I had represented the State of Mississippi in the Senate of the United States from January, 1836, until March, 1845, when, having resigned that office, I was called to the Cabinet of President Polk, as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, and remained in that position until the close of that administration in March 1849. I added, that I was in Washington city, the Capitol of the Union, and residing there as a Counsellor at Law in the Supreme Court of the United States when the first repudiation letter of Jefferson Davis commmunicated by him to the Editor of the “Union' (a newspaper of that city,) was published on the 25th May,1849, in that print, and very generally throughout the United States. It was remarked by me, that it was well known to myself personally, and I believed to every prominent public man of that date, especially those then in Washington, that Mr. Jefferson Davis was the author of that letter then published over his signature, and that he defended its doctrines, with all that earnestness and ability for which he was so distinguished. I was also residing in Washington, when, Mr. Jefferson Davis, published, over his signature, as a Senator of the United States from Mississippi, his well-known second repudiation letter, dated at his residence, “Brierfield, Miss.," August 29, 1849. This letter was addressed to the Editors of the “Mississippian," a newspaper published at Jackson, Mississippi, and
was received by me in due course of mail. This letter extended over several columns, and was an elaborate defence of the repudiation of Mississippi. This letter also was generally republished throughout the United States. These views of Mr. Jefferson Davis attracted my most earnest attention, because, after a brief interval, he was one of my successors in the senate of the United States, from Mississippi. I had always earnestly opposed the doctrine of repudiation in Mississippi, and the Legislature of 1840-41, by which I was re-elected, passed resolutions by overwhelming majorities, (hereafter quoted,) denouncing the repudiation either of the Union Bank, or Planters' bank bonds.
At the period of the conversations before referred to, late in April or early in May last, I was, on this recital of the facts, strongly urged to make them known in Europe, to which my consent was given. .
After some investigation, however, the necessary documents fully to elucidate the whole subject could not be obtained here. It was necessary, therefore, to write home and procure them. This has been done, and I now proceed to a narrative of these transactions from the authentic historical public documents.
The first letter of Mr. Jefferson Davis before referred to, of the 25th of May, 1849, was published by him as a Senator of the United States from Mississippi, over his signature in the “ Union," a newspaper published at Washington city. That letter is in these words :