Sunday, June 03, 2007

June 3, 1808:

Jefferson Davis' Birthday

One of the more famous what-ifs of presidential history involves the fact that Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were both born in southern Kentucky late in the first decade of the 19th century, but neither stayed there to grow up: Lincoln went north, Davis went south. If it had been reversed? A few have imagined the two men switching presidencies, but it's only idle speculation, given the number of variables in any particular life.

Philip Robert Dillon, writing in American Anniversaries (1918), commented on Davis' birthdate, mentioning the curious coincidences of his birth fairly near Lincoln's, both in time and space, but keeps the speculation more realistic than President Lincoln of the CSA and President Davis of the USA: "Jefferson Davis was born in Todd County, Ky., June 3, 1808, less than a year before the birth of Abraham Lincoln and at a place but a short distance from Lincoln's birthplace in the same state. He was descended from Scotch-Irish and Welch ancestry. His father, Samuel Davis, was one of the border pioneers. He was he youngest of nine children.

"The early parallel between the lives of Davis and Lincoln has furnished a subject for speculation to many writers. Lincoln moved north to Indiana and later to Illinois where slavery was forbidden. Davis moved south to Mississippi where slavery was accepted... If Lincoln had been taken south by his parents, and if the father of Davis had gone north, would Lincoln have become a slave holder and would Davis have become an abolitionist?"

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