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358CIVIL WAR HISTORY the next installment with the same delight he felt while waiting atthe Tamalpais Theater twenty-five years ago. James E. Sefton California State, University, Northridge The Papers of Jefferson Davis. Volume 2, June 1841-July 1846. Edited by James T. Mcintosh (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1974. Pp. 806, xxxix. $20.00.) "He impresses me as a remarkable kind of man," Varina Banks Howell wrote of Jefferson Davis after first seeing him in December, 1843, "but of uncertain temper, and has a way of taking for granted that everybody agrees with him when he expresses an opinion. . . ." Davis, a young widower, was just entering state politics when he caught Miss Howell's eye. Little wonder that he did. He was a West Point graduate, veteran of frontier army service, and a Mississippi plantation master who loved fine thoroughbreds and was among the founders of the Vicksburg Jockey Club. He was also a man who knew what he wanted. By March of the new year he was writing Miss Howell letters that began "My Own Dearest Varina" and closed "Bon soir, mon cher ange, Je suis votre." Davis's love for Varina, who was fourteen years younger than he, developed as suddenly as did his political fortunes. The entries in this second volume of the Davis Papers provide a silhouette of a novice working hard to succeed in the role he felt prepared to fill. Suddenly called on to take the place of a withdrawn candidate for the legislature in 1843, Davis carried himself well despite his loss. Though he had not hewn to the Democratic line on a nettlesome question of state banking policy, his oratorical skills and devotion to duty nonetheless made him attractive to his party. Davis stumped the state as a Polk elector in 1844 after the effort to nominate Calhoun failed, and in the next year won his own campaign for a congressional seat. By then married to Varina, Davis so worked himself once he arrived in Washington in December , 1845, that there was concern for his health. "He sits up until two or three o'clock at night," wrote Varina in one of her delightful letters home, "until his eyes even lose their beauty to me they look so red and painful." In only six months Davis, the military preparedness Democrat, overruled the strenuous objections of his wife and went off to lead Mississippi volunteers in Mexico. In many ways the papers collected here will please students of the antebellum South. The volume brings together relatively inaccessible Davis material: Mississippi newspaper extracts containing his public addresses, state property tax rolls, proceedings of Democratic county meetings, and—especially after 1845—Davis book reviews359 letters to Democratic party figures whose own papers are scattered . Included here also are convenient pieces of the Congressional Globe with Davis's speeches on Oregon settlers, Texas debts, and war measures, and citizens' complaints about land claims in numbers that suggest something of the socio-legal confusion of early Mississippi. There are unexpected items of interest in the volume— a few newspaper accounts of Democratic meetings are clever enough to qualify as southwestern humor; the several biting exchanges in the House between Davis and Andrew Johnson, which no doubt Davis later regretted, are witty and revealing of class differences in the Old South. Researchers in Mississippi political history will find the well indexed volume, of special value for the hundreds of secondary personalities identified in it, and for the several editorial notes that help clarify state issues. Mcintosh and his staff have produced what is for the most part a model of exceedingly thorough work. Yet such exceeding thoroughness makes us a bit impatient. The first document in this volume—a brief business message that Davis sent his brother from a steamboat—receives, for example, four pages of somewhat tedious annotation. Elsewhere there are disgressions on lacunae, unnecessarily exhaustive histories of crossroads communities , a blow-by-blow description of a streetlight (p. 252), and abundant information of most value to steamboat buffs. Abbreviated notes in these and similar cases would have satisfied most historians and helped to keep the cost of the volume within bounds. Over three years...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 358-359
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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