Weakness of President Davis
Edward Alfred Pollard

President Davis had a great reputation in the Confederacy for a certain sort of firmness. He was almost inaccessible to the advice and argument of those who might aspire to intellectual equality, and possibly dispute with him the credit of public measures. No man could receive a delegation of Congressmen, or any company of persons who had advice to give, or suggestions to make, with such a well-bred grace, with a politeness so studied as to be almost sarcastic, with a manner that so plainly gave the idea that his company talked to a post. But history furnished numerous examples of men who, firm as flint in public estimation, and superiour to the common addresses of humanity, have yet been as wax in the hands of small and unworthy favourites. Severest tyrants have been governed by women and court-jesters. President Davis, firm, cold, severe to those who from position or merit should have been admitted into his counsels, was notoriously governed by his wife; had dismissed the Quarter-Master General of the Confederacy, on account of a woman's quarrel and a criticism of Mrs. Davis' figure; surrounded himself with and took into his household and intimate confidence men who had been "Jenkinses" and court-correspondents in Washington; was imposed upon by "travelled gentlemen" and obsequious adventurers; and frequently placed in the most important commands and positions in the Confederacy, men who had no other claim on his favour, than an acquaintance at West Point, or some social pleasantry in Washington. Those who knew Mr. Davis best testified that he was the weakest of men, on certain sides of his character, and that he had a romantic sentimentalism, which made him the prey of preachers and women. John M. Daniel, the editor of the Richmond Examiner - a single press so powerful in the Confederacy, that it was named "the fourth estate" - once remarked to Senator Wigfall, that the President was contemptibly weak; that his eyes often filled with tears on public occasions; and that a man who cried easily was unfit for a ruler. "I do not know about that," said the rugged Texas Senator; "there are times in every man's life, when it is better to take counsel of the heart than the head." "Well," replied Daniel, "I have only to say that any man whose tears lie shallow, is assuredly weak and unreliable. For myself, I admire the manner of the austere Romans: when they wept, the face was turned away and the head covered with the mantle."

It must be admitted that in the last periods of the war, the influence of President Davis was almost entirely gone, and that the party which supported him was scarcely anything more than that train of followers which always fawns on power and lives on patronage. There was a large party in the Confederacy, that now accepted its downfall as an inevitable result, in view of what stared them in the face, that all the public measures of Mr. Davis' administration had come to be wrecks. The foreign relations of the Confederacy were absurdities; its currency was almost worthless rags; its commissariat was almost empty; its system of conscription was almost like a sieve for water. Surely when all these wrecks of a great system of government lay before the eyes, it was no longer possible to dispute the question of maladministration, debate the competency of President Davis, and give him a new lease of public confidence.


The Lost Cause by Edward Alfred Pollard, pages 656-657
A Facsimilie of the Original 1886 Edition
Gramercy Books, New York, 1994.