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Biography of Jefferson Davis: How Author Depictions of Confederate President Have Changed Through Years

By    |   Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 03:26 PM

Early descriptions of the life of Confederate President Jefferson Davis often were written from a pro-North standpoint. Through the years, more diverse perspectives have emerged, with biographies written from a perspective that was more sympathetic to the South.

Early historians blamed the Civil War on the South, portraying them as stubborn and vigilant rebels, according to "The Mississippi Valley Historical Review." By the 1930s, however, revisionism in history was taking shape. The review noted that Allen Tate’s “Jefferson Davis, His Rise and Fall: A Biographical Narrative” takes a gentler tone when it comes to the South’s rebellious behavior. Instead, Tate portrays the North as the aggressor, wanting control of its neighbor while the South is an image of providing willingness to compromise and acting in self-preservation.

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As for the president of the Confederacy, throughout most of history, Jefferson was depicted as a failure of a leader, incompetent, and a traitor. Many blamed Davis for the South’s loss of the war, according to a review of James M. McPherson’s “Embattled Rebel: Jefferson Davis as Commander In Chief” on Amazon.com.

More recent scholars, however, argue that may not be the case. In “Embattled Rebel,” McPherson takes a sympathetic look at the fallen president, noting his long and mostly successful experience prior to fighting the war. McPherson takes a stance that sees Davis as a hardworking, dedicated leader who may have just been on the wrong side of history.

Additionally, more recent published works on Davis show him to be far from a reactionary slaveholder, promoting secession from the Union, according to Humanities, the magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Instead, Davis is depicted as loyal to his homeland first, but a patriot before his state of Mississippi departs from the country. Having fought in the Mexican War and later worked as the U.S. Secretary of War, Davis is increasingly depicted as reluctant to leave the United States as the South secedes.

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Early descriptions of the life of Confederate President Jefferson Davis often were written from a pro-North standpoint. Through the years, more diverse perspectives have emerged, with biographies written from a perspective that was more sympathetic to the South.
Jefferson Davis, biography, changed
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2015-26-29
Wednesday, 29 Jul 2015 03:26 PM
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