Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/337

This page needs to be proofread.


that Jefferson Davis had been taken prisoner and confined in Fortress Monroe; perhaps it was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to Mr. Davis. Immediately he became the scape-goat of the Southern people; their sorrows had to be borne by him and he stood for the cause for which they had fought, and perhaps he would suffer the death penalty for them. The trial never came off, but for all that, Jefferson Davis returned, the people's idol the great chief- tain of the South. And so he remains to this day."

In October, 1865, Mr. Semmes went to Washington and saw President Johnson. The President asked him what he had done for the South? Mr. Semmes answered: "All that a man could do, by words and deeds, to promote the Confederate cause, and now he wanted to resume in peace the practice of his profession."

"Well, go home and work," said Mr. Johnson. He immedi- ately returned to New Orleans, having borrowed $100 for that purpose, not being possessed of another cent in the world. His pa- latial home in this city, with its fine furniture and mirrors, and mag- nificent library, had been confiscated when the city fell into the hands of the Federal forces, under General Butler. He resumed the practice of his profession in partnership with Mr. Mott, and rapidly rose to the head of the Louisiana bar.

The principal factors in those stirring scenes, of which he was such a part, have nearly all passed away. He and Mr. Garland and one other Senator, perhaps are all that remain of the Confederate Congress. The years have passed on and a new South has grown on the ruins of the old, and of this South Mr. Semmes is still a conspicuous figure and active worker. But as he himself said, the old life was full of grace and beauty, and has, for him, the peculiar charm of an autumn twilight's lingering adieu.