Letter from Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell Davis (September 7, 1873)


In this letter dated September 7, 1873, Jefferson Davis writes to his wife, Varina Howell Davis, about his economic hardships. 


Dear Wife, 

Your’s of the 4th Inst. has just arrived. I have anxiously looked for a letter in reply to those written to you before and after our telegrams.  

I propose to leave to-morrow for Louisville and to send you by the most speedy method practicable two hundred dollars, that you may pay off your bills, make the small purchases you desire and join me at the Galt House. We will then confer as to what shall be done next.  

The tide of my fortune is at lowest ebb. Every thing is adverse. This morning Judge Clayton informs me by letter that the coal & iron Co. in which on his recommendation I had taken stock, is under a cloud and that his ill health had induced him to resign the Presidency of it and sell out his interest at a heavy loss.  

Boyle has the money he loaned for us in such a condition that he cannot now draw it in, though he had several months notice that I required marketable collaterals so as to enable me at any time to get the money. He is confident of its security and that the whole will be paid by February. He seems earnest and cordial, I believe is both, but for so shrewd and cautious a man has not managed the affair well. Bowmar after getting permission to draw largely on the funds in hand for Lize, wrote to me that he was in want of money and wanted authority to pay himself $1.000 on his second years salary. I replied that I wanted money also, and as I was the only Executor not paid in full for the first year’s commissions I thought my case had priority, and further stated that the interest due on the legacy to my children was the only consideration given for my property, which went to make up the revenue of the Estate. &c. &c. He has not answered.  

I have no proposition for any business engagement as yet; though Maj. Goodman who has just returned, called yesterday and mentioned that when in New York he heard several persons speak with friendly concern about my future.  

It is not possible to look complacently on the treatment I have received from the Directors, yet generally I believe they did not wish to injure me, but were too selfish to view the case properly, some of them I am sure are friendly. 

If your letter proposing to come home with Mrs. Moody had reached me I would have proposed that you should come as far as Louisville. It may be that being there something will be discovered for future occupation, a few days will suffice for observation. I will go for Maggie or take you to Va. if you prefer to go.  

Do not despond, though seriously injured as a business man by my connection with the Carolina, I think there will be opportunities to earn the worth of my labor and that we shall not suffer. If any sensible disposition had been made of the business and property of the Ca. I should have got nearly all the value of my stock; & if any care is exercised there will be, say, three fourths of it paid after a while. In the mean time we can dispose of a portion of our furniture here, and raise some money in that way.  

Luke Wright wants the House, and Mrs. Semmes thinks will want a large part of the furniture. She said he would take it whenever we pleased. I told /her/ you had left the house intending to return, and that some of the furniture would be retained by you, I could therefore do nothing until after your return.  

Many persons express regret at the prospect of losing us from Memphis. None more earnestly than Mrss McMahon, Titus, and Boyle. Browne went to Athens Ga. with the remains of his Wife & has not returned. Geo. Phelan, Wife & Mother in law are at home. I have only seen Geo., who is as good as ever, and indignant at events in the Carolina. He asked affectionately about you, and wanted /me/ to go out with him; but I have been suffering for a week from acute neuralgia of the face, eyes and ear, so that I had to decline because of the exposure.  

You surely did not understand me as complaining of your want of economy, I intended to show you only the danger of having bills, which are sprung upon us after our money has been used for current demands. Jno. Randolph once startled the Ho. of Reps. by announcing he had “found the Philosopher’s Stone”, and explained “it is to pay as you go.”  

Kiss my dear baby for me, and tell her to kiss you for me in return. I am very anxious to see you both, and most concerned to have you out of the cold nights on account of the disease which still lingers about you. In a former letter I suggested the Springs.  

I have got along here passably well with Harriet & Susie, but have no confidence in either. If I can send money by telegraph you will have time to prepare for your departure while this is on the road, if it be otherwise the delay will be diminished by telegraphic notice that the money is coming. May God bless and preserve you, and soon reunite us, is the fervent and loving wish of 

your Husband 

APA Citation:
Davis, Jefferson. Letter from Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell Davis (September 7, 1873). (2024, June 03). In Encyclopedia Virginia.
MLA Citation:
Davis, Jefferson. "Letter from Jefferson Davis to Varina Howell Davis (September 7, 1873)" Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, (03 Jun. 2024). Web. 19 Jul. 2024
Last updated: 2024, June 03
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