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Jefferson Davis Views Towards Slavery
Jefferson Davis was the president of the confederation of America during the civil war when some states of the South threatened to form a separate State of America. He served as president from 1861 to 1865.[footnoteRef:1] [1: Spartacus Educational. Jefferson Davis. n.d. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USASdavisJ.htm (accessed April 1, 2012).]
Jefferson Davis is famous for his controversial role during the war and his proslavery stance which is viewed in a negative light today. Although is views were led by good intentions on his behalf and his quest to protect the blacks from any oppression, it the ideology that drove these actions that have been controversial throughout history. His politeness, compassion and generosity towards his slaves and the black community in general were driven from the view that the blacks were an uncivilized community and that they needed to be tamed through slavery. In that respect he did not want the Blacks to outdo him in any civilized practices, and that was the motivation for many of his activities.[footnoteRef:2] [2: Fleming, Walter L. "Jefferson Davis, the Negroes and the Negro Problem." The Sewanee Review 16, no. 4 (October 1908): 407-427., 408]
He has been famous for his tolerant view of slaves and of his polite treatment towards the African-American communities, who at the time were subjected to slavery. Jefferson Davis treated the Black community well, and his slaves were considered to be his servants whom he treated with compassion. He considered them as reasonable beings that had to be explained rather than coerced into working for him.
According to his wife, he was tolerant of all minority communities and wanted to impress himself upon them so that he made space in their hearts for himself. In fact he was known as 'the Little Chief' to the Indian tribes.
But behind this politeness and generosity towards his slaves, which was better than how most masters treated their slaves, was the ideology that held the Black race inferior. To hi, the black race was a child race and that they were little more than barbarians and savages who needed to be tamed and civilized. And the duty of this fell on the shoulders of the White Man who, as the master needed to train and groom the race, in order for the Blacks to be able to live respectfully in the world.
His behavior stemmed from the ideology that as a person belonging to a superior race, it was his duty to protect the weaker race, and that slavery was the ideal form of training that needed to be given to the blacks in order for them to be able to survive respectably.
As to do with his politeness, Jefferson Davis's behavior was commented on by an outside observer who asked whether Davis had many friends in the Negro community as he was so friendly with them, and he responded just as respectfully as they did. However, Jefferson Davis's response to the observer was that he was polite to the slaves as he did not want them to outdo him in being polite. This is clearly indicative of the fact that Jefferson Davis's thinking was firmly entrenched with the ideology that Blacks were the serving race.
Davis's actions although overtly encouraging of negro self-government were all lead by the belief that the negroes were the weaker race and that the white race was decreed by some will of God to lead the Black community, to buy and sell them as slaves. Additionally slavery was a good thing for them, as through serving their masters they were exposed to the activities of the civilized world, and in turn would be made respectable.
He however has to be credited for his sense of justice, compassion and fairness as far as his blacks were concerned. In these he was influenced by his brother, who let him use some acres of land, and gave him a loan of money in order to purchase slaves and run the land. In governing the slaves he was taught by his brother that Negroes would work best if they were allowed to do the work themselves and were treated respectfully.
Jefferson followed these views and opinions so that he let the blacks earn money on their own and start up their own businesses as well, if they were able to do so. He was accommodating of the needs of respect by his slaves and while addressing them, called them by their actual names as they desired and not by some nickname, which was the trend at the time.
He was also of the opinion, that in being the weaker race, it was not fair for them to be governed by White laws and thought that slavery was a kinder manner of dealing with them. This proved to be a correct realization, as the doctrine of equal but separate and the Ku Klux Klan rose, and Negroes were discriminated against mercilessly, until the civil rights movement in the late 1960s. Therefore he saw what was to come nearly a hundred years hence and was seeking to protect the black community.
Understanding the needs to do justice among the slaves, he also established a court system that was led by settled Negroes who made decisions for the slaves. Even though the slaves were very happy with the workings of the court and they took a keen interest in the workings of the court, they head of that court too was Jefferson Davis, who at times could override the decisions of the negroes, even though they had demonstrated no need for the intervention as they took decisions without any bias.[footnoteRef:3] [3: Von Drehle, David. "The Way We Weren't." Time, April 18, 2011: 40-51.]
Jefferson treated his slaves very well, from keeping them in good physical health, by having doctors come to the plantation to examine their teeth, to taking care of them while they were ill. He also took care of their wedding expenses as well as took care of their spiritual well-being by calling over a priest to give the slaves sermons, and he regarded this to be the best missionary activity carried out for the Negroes so far.
Deep-rooted in his mentality was that the slaves were a weaker community and that they needed to be protected from the external world. For that reason, he was against the expansion of slavery, as he thought that the masters should each be accountable for each of their slaves and should know them all personally in order to take care of them.
His efforts to take care of his slaves and to be personally responsible for their well-being were reciprocated by the Blacks many of whom came to his aid specially Robert Brown, who helped Davis in his days as a fugitive from the Northern Forces.
However, as the war progressed and the Davises were captured, there were many incidents where Davis sought to find out about the conditions of his slaves at the plantations. He was forced into seclusion by the Northern forces, but even during his exile he wrote mostly about the slaves and the black community's future. Even then he indicated his suspicions that the blacks would not be able to take care of themselves and that freedom would actually be a curse for them, as they no longer would know where to go and that they were drifting aimlessly.[footnoteRef:4] [4: Fleming, 420]
What he did not consider was that the Blacks would find their own path, as so deeply entrenched was the ideology that the Black people were like children and that they were not so well-versed with the ways of the world and that they would be exploited by the majority of the whites who would prosecute them. In his quest to be the superior race, and to be the protector of Blacks, he in fact become unpopular with the black community in the North, who were already free and were capable enough to think of their own accord. In fact even in economic terms he indicated that when a black slave died, the white master lost nothing, but the slaves lost money, as then there would be lesser working hands. Additionally, if slaves did not have masters to sell their produce to, they would be worse off economically. This view is indicative of his myopic view of the situation.[footnoteRef:5] [5: Fleming, 422]
In fact the evidence of their intellectual capability can be seen from the various print [footnoteRef:6]publications that they took out, and the fact that many stood up to fight for equality so that defying all of Jefferson's assumptions, a Black President is now at the helm of all affairs, in a higher rank than he is, nearly 150 years later.[footnoteRef:7] Additionally, the Blacks became better off economically, where even where they were discriminated against, they set up stores and facilities that catered only to the Black population, giving rise to prosperity in times of freedom. [6: DeLombard, Jeanine Mary. "African-American Cultures of Print." In Cultures…[continue]
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