Descendant of Confederate President Jefferson Davis Recalls His ‘Idealistic’ Slave-owning Ancestor

An American I know, a Civil War and history buff, claims Confederate President Jefferson Davis as an ancestor. “Davis was quirky,” he writes. “An idealist, he organized his plantation as a utopian community basically ruled by slaves on lines set out by the idealistic utopian socialist Robert Owen. And who believed that Yankees failed to appreciate that this idealism was the essence of slavery. As president he was subject to nervous ailments — insomnia, indigestion — and often forgot to eat. Taller than six feet, his weight diminished to less than 165 pounds.  A man who wrestled with demons, he never gave up and this I find an inspiration. The great Civil War historian Bruce Catton said ‘he deserved a better cause.’ ”

Southerners like Davis and Edmund Ruffin offered a blistering critique of the North’s use of “wage labour,” which they equated with “wage slavery,” Remember that this was the age of Charles Dickens, and in England, “dark, Satanic mills,” and the horrors of industrial capitalism. Southerners at least offered their slaves cradle-to-grave security, enough to eat and a roof over their heads, and were part of an extended family, whereas Northern capitalists cared nothing for their workers, only interested in their labor for low wages.

Oh, the ironies and peculiarities of history.


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