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The Confederacy's only President visits the House of Commons
Autograph Letter signed: "Jefferson Davis", 1p, 5¼x8¼. 18 Upper Gloucester Place, Dorset Square (London), 1869 March 2. To W. H. Gregory. In full: "I was much mortified at being behind the time named for my arrival at the door of the House and wish to exculpate myself by stating that the delay was due to the Cab in which I started. The Policeman under your instructions showed me to a very favourable seat and I heard quite fully the speech of Mr. Gladstone & the request for delay by Mr. Disraeli. For this gratification I am truly thankful to you & am very sincerely and respectfully yours. Please notice change of my address." Jefferson Davis (1808-1889), a West Point graduate and Mexican War veteran who had represented Mississippi in the U.S. House (1845-1846) and Senate (1845-1851, 1857-1861) and served as Secretary of War under President Pierce (1853-1857), was an ardent champion of southern rights but a reluctant convert to secession. Nevertheless, he served as the Confederacy's only President (1861-1865) and spent the rest of his life defending the justice of the "lost cause." Imprisoned at the end of the Civil War and eventually charged with treason, Davis was released on bail in 1867 and journeyed to Canada and then Europe. During most of 1869, he and his wife Varina resided in London, moving to the address in this letter in March of that year. In October 1869, the treason prosecution having been abandoned, Davis returned to the U.S. As recounted in this letter, he witnessed a Parliamentary debate featuring the two most prominent British leaders of the era, William Gladstone (1809-1898) and Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881). Gladstone was Prime Minister at the time of Davis' visit, his Liberal party having defeated Disraeli's Conservatives in the election of 1868. Davis had special reason to appreciate Gladstone, who as Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government of Lord Palmerston had favored British recognition of the Confederacy. William H. Gregory, the addressee, had been an even stronger advocate for the Confederacy. It was he who had met Confederate envoys upon their arrival in England (April 1861), arranged their unofficial meeting with the Foreign Secretary, Lord Russell (May 3, 1861), and subsequently introduced an (unsuccessful) motion in the House of Commons to recognize the Confederate government. The original letter is very light, but Davis' signature is legible. A copy of the letter (unknown hand), noted as such in upper left corner, accompanies the original on an integral leaf. The original letter is lightly soiled, the copy lightly creased and soiled, with a ¼x¼-inch hole at one letter of text.

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Born: June 3, 1808 in Fairview, Kentucky
Died: December 6, 1889 in New Orleans, Louisiana

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