Davis and Lincoln: Parting words they shared for our future

February 27th, 2011

Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln confronted some of the most daunting challenges ever to face America. In a previous Examiner article, we acknowledged some of the things they had in common, perhaps trivial when we recognize their leadership of the opposing forces in our nation’s deadliest war. A war that left the South devastated … tens of thousands impoverished … and 620,000 Americans dead.

What can we say of all this now?

In the aftermath of the world’s deadliest war, Winston Churchill, a well-read student of history with an English father and an American mother, voiced his concerns—and advice—in a speech at Zurich University, in Zurich, Switzerland on September 19, 1946.

We must all turn our backs upon the horrors of the past. We must look to the future. We cannot afford to drag forward across the years that are to come the hatreds and revenges which have sprung from the injuries of the past.

From their unique perspectives as presidents of the United States and Confederate States, respectively—and yes, for our benefit—Lincoln and Davis reflected on the tragic course of events in their own time and bequeathed to the rest of us rather remarkable…and very similar…sentiments.

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us…bind up the nation’s wounds;…and do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.

Lincoln spoke these words on March 4, 1865, in his Second Inaugural address. He had just six weeks to live.

In March of 1888, in what is considered one of his final public statements, Jefferson Davis addressed a group of young men in Mississippi. He had but twenty months to live.

The past is dead; let it bury its dead, its hopes and its aspirations. Before you lies the future—a future full of golden promise; a future of expanding national glory, before which all the world shall stand amazed. Let me beseech you to lay aside all rancor, all bitter sectional feeling, and to take your places in the ranks of those who will bring about a consummation devoutly to be wished—a reunited country.

To both of these sons of Kentucky, we should say thank you

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