Biography of President Jefferson Davis
US politician, president of the short-lived Confederate States of America 1861-65. He was a leader of the Southern Democrats in the US Senate from 1857, and a defender of “humane” slavery; in 1860 he issued a declaration in favor of secession from the US. During the Civil War he assumed strong political leadership, but often disagreed with military policy. He was imprisoned for two years after the war, one of the few cases of judicial retribution against Confederate leaders.
Born in Kentucky, he graduated from West Point military academy and served in the US army before becoming a cotton planter in Mississippi. He sat in the US Senate 1847-51, was secretary of war 1853-57, and returned to the Senate 1857. His fiery temper and self-righteousness hindered efforts to achieve broad unity among the Southern states. His call for conscription in the South raised protests that he was a military dictator, violating the very ideals of freedom for which the Confederacy was fighting.