Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 36.djvu/159

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Stephens Refused Presidency of the Confederacy.

" 'You understand, of course, that I speak only of the party in my own State. I am told that the Union feeling was not so strong in Mississippi. Conditions are doubtless different with you.'

" 'No, about the same; about the same,' Colonel Campbell rejoined. The Union feeling is just as strong, though their votes are not so numerous as they were when they elected Henry S. Foote and defeated Jeff Davis for Governor.

" 'They acted in Mississippi just about as they did in Georgia. They declared their willingness to sustain and defend; but for success in this movement we must have more than their willingness; we must have their enthusiasm.

" 'We need and must have the enthusiastic support of the Unionists of the Southern States. It is our best policy, Mr. Stephens, and you are the best man for furthering that policy, sir.'

"After arguing for about two hours they got him to the point of saying he would consider, then very wisely withdrew.


"The next day Judge Chilton and Colin McRea, of the Alabama delegation, called for the same purpose. Their shadows had hardly left Stephens' door, when Keitt, of South Carolina, and Mr. Toombs made their appearance—at least Toombs didn't make his appearance. He sat out in the passageway, and when I let Keitt in Toombs put his finger to his lips and shook his head.

"Well, Keitt talked and talked and talked. I never knew a man who could beat Keitt talking.

" 'You are the preference of the South Carolina delegation for President, Mr. Stephens, and I am sent to ask if you will serve if elected?' was what it all amounted to.

"Mr. Stephens listened thoughtfully to all he had to say. When Keitt stopped, waiting for his reply, there was a moment's silence. I don't believe I ever was more anxious in my life. I knew what Mr. Stephens' inclination was, and I had heard his prayer the night after the secession of Georgia.

" 'If I am the unanimous choice of the delegates, as well. as the States, and can organize a cabinet with such concert of