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Collection Title: Davis (Reuben) Speech

Collection Number: M222

Dates: February 17, 1859

Volume: 1 item

Provenance: Unknown

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

Reuben Davis was born in 1813 in Tennessee. He came to Mississippi to study medicine, but because he was more interested in law, he settled in Athens and opened a law practice in Monroe County, Mississippi, in 1832. Davis proved to be very successful and became district attorney for the 6th Mississippi Judicial District in 1835. He ran for the U.S. Congress in 1838 on the Whig ticket and was defeated. In 1842 he was appointed judge of the Mississippi High Court of Appeals. He resigned that position after four months. During the Mexican War, he was colonel of the 2nd Mississippi Volunteers in 1847 but served only a short time, due to illness. Later, he served as a Democrat in the Mississippi House of Representatives (1855-1858) and in the U.S. House of Representatives (1858-1861). Davis' opponents labeled him a fire-eater because he regarded the Civil War as inevitable. Davis served briefly in the Confederate Army, rising from the rank of Brigadier-General to Major-General before he was elected to the Confederate Congress. He served in that capacity until 1864, when he resigned due to problems with President Jefferson Davis (no relation). In 1863 he ran for governor of the state, suffering defeat possibly because of his criticism of the Confederate war policy. In 1878 he ran for Congress on the Greenback ticket; following his defeat, he devoted his time to the practice of criminal law, becoming one of the most successful lawyers in this field. He wrote Recollections of Mississippi and Mississippians, which was published in 1889, one year before his death.

Scope and Content:

This collection consists of a printed document entitled "Speech of Hon. Reuben Davis of Mississippi, on the Bill Making Appropriations for the Army," which was delivered in the House of Representatives, February 17, 1859. Reuben Davis' partisan speech defends the Democratic party's spending record. Some representatives believed that the budget for the forthcoming year should not be increased. Davis reminds then that since 1852, eight additional states and territories had been added to the Union. Naturally, this would call for an increase in the budget. He also reminded them that the admissions are not "chargable" to the President or his Cabinet but that these admissions were brought about by Congress -- not the Democratic or Republican Parties separately -- but together as a Congress.

The major part of his speech concerns quibbling over money and the charges and countercharges made by the two parties. At that time, the Democratic party was split along sectional lines and the Republican party was stronger because of the split. Davis also let his fellow representatives know his thoughts on that session of Congress - "...half the time of this session, important as it is to the business interest of the country, has been consumed in idle clamor for reform...It is quite easy to complain and carp, but it is more difficult to discover the existence of error and suggest a plan of reformation."

Mr. Davis also mentioned the matter of a tariff which had been introduced earlier by Mr. Phillips of Pennsylvania. Davis believed that Congress should be governed by what is good for the country as a whole, not what is good for various sections. He was in favor of revenue tariff, but one that was not prohibitory or discriminatory.


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Revised: December 14, 2004