THE ADMINISTRATION OF GOVERNOR LOWRY.
Source: Lowry, Robert and McCardle, William H. A History of Mississippi, from the Discovery of the Great River by Hernando DeSoto, Including the Earliest Settlement Made by the French Under Iberville, to the Death of Jefferson Davis [1541-1889]. Jackson, Miss.: R. H. Henry & Co., 1891. Pages 415-416d.
Robert Lowry, a native of Chesterfield District, South Carolina, was brought, when a child, to Perry (now Decatur) county, Tennessee, by his father, and afterwards to Tishomingo county, Mississippi. When a small boy he went to Raleigh, in Smith county, to reside with his uncle, Judge James Lowry. He was elected to the position of Governor in 1881, and was installed in office in January, 1862, as the successor of Governor Stone, thus becoming the twenty-second Chief Magistrate of the commonwealth, and the fifth under the Constitution adopted in 1869.
Robert Lowry entered the Confederate army as a private in Company B, in the Sixth Mississippi Infantry. Upon the organization of that regiment he was elected to the position of Major, and upon its reorganization after the battle of Shiloh, Col. Thornton, because of wounds having retired, was elected to the Colonelcy. In 1864, he was appointed to the rank of Brigadier-General, which position he continued to hold until the termination of the war.
After the close of hostilities General Lowry represented the people of his county and district in both branches of the Legislature. He was nominated for the office of Attorney-General against his protest in the Convention, headed by Mr. Louis Dent in 1869, in opposition to the Republican ticket led by Hon. James L. Alcorn, and of course was defeated.
The Industrial Institute and College at Columbus was established in the second year of the first term of Governor Lowry, and its beneficial results have thus far exceeded the most sanguine hopes of its founders.
The East Mississippi Insane Asylum, at Meridian, was also established and put in operating during the first term of Governor Lowry. A Railroad Commission was also created and organized during his administration and has been in operation since.
It is fair to presume that the administration of Governor Lowry from 1882 to 1885, inclusive, was satisfactory to the people of the State, for he was renominated practically without opposition and re-elected by an increased popular majority.
During his eight years service as Governor of the State - double the length of time of any of the early Governors, and two years longer than his immediate predecessor, Governor Stone - there were more miles of railroad builded in Mississippi than during the administration of all his predecessors from the organization of the State government down to the time he came to be Governor.
During Governor Lowry's administration a joint resolution of the two houses of the Legislature of 1884 appointed a committee, of which Hon. James T. Harrison of Lowndes, was chairman, to extend to Jefferson Davis, ex-President of the Confederate States, an invitation to visit the capital and deliver an address and thus afford his people perhaps the last opportunity they would have of seeing, paying honor to, and shaking the hand of their beloved and renowned fellow-citizen. The invitation was accepted, and Mr. Harrison, the chairman, advised that he would reach Jackson on Monday morning, March 10th.
He was received at the depot by the Legislative Committee, and conducted to the Executive Mansion. At one o'clock on the day of his arrival, the two houses met in joint convention and announced their readiness to receive the honored chief. He entered the hall of the House of Representatives on the arm of Governor Lowry, followed by the supreme judges, State officials, the military and citizens. Every space in the hall, galleries and windows was occupied. The ladies were present in large numbers, and parents had brought their children that they might see the great Mississippian.
His entrance into the hall was greeted with the wildest enthusiasm. Cheer after cheer went up, handkerchiefs waved, and the grand old man looked and felt that he was in the midst of his own people, those who loved and honored him in his early manhood, in mature age, when he led their young men to battle and victory on a foreign field; those whom he had represented on the floor of the American Senate; those whom, when he was in prison, employed counsel for his defence [sic] and clothed commissioners with authority to appeal to the President of the United States for his release.
When quiet was restored, the able and accomplished presiding officer of the joint convention, Lieut.-Governor G. D. Shands, addressed Mr. Davis as follows:
Mr. Davis: It is eminently fitting that a people should pause on an occasion like this and bring their minds for a moment to the contemplation of those things which in the past have stimulated the highest human endeavor. This joint convention of the Legislature of the State of Mississippi stands uncovered in your presence this day while our minds are busy with the memories of long ago, in which times our hopes, aspirations and ambitions clustered around your erect figure. You now stand before us, embodied history. Throughout your life, which is now far spent, you have clung with such heroic tenacity to your solemn world as marked in its individuality and as lustrous in the honesty of its purposes, as is the character of any master mind of other ages, whether he rejoiced in success or mourned in misfortune.
I present now to you, Mr. Davis, this silent and admiring assemblage, all of whom are proud that you are proud to be known as a Mississippian. In its numbers are the servants of the people of this commonwealth, their Governor and State officers, the Supreme Court with all of its members, and their Legislature, and beside no mean assemblage of citizens and ladies. These latter are always near when deeds of greatness and heroism may be recounted, and their hearts lean tenderly to him whose name, in all this land, was once potent enough by its attraction to draw away by their consent, from their arms, their husbands and sons. They none the less love and revere you now, and we all know that your arm is still ready bared to labor
- "For the cause that needs assistance,
- For the wrongs that lack resistance,
- For the future in the distance,
- And the good that you can do."
- When Governor Shands presented Mr. Davis to the audience, another wild scene of enthusiasm and applause, such as was never before witnessed in the old capitol, was indulged in for some minutes, after which the Ex-President spoke as follows:
- Ladies and Gentlemen, I introduce to you Mississippi's most distinguished son.
- Friends and Brethren of Mississippi: In briefest terms, but with deepest feeling, permit me to return my thanks for the unexpected honor you have conferred on me. Away from the political sea, I have in my secluded home observed with intense interest all passing events, affecting the interest or honor of Mississippi, and have rejoiced to see in the diversification of labor and the development of new sources of prosperity and the increased facilities of public education, reason to hope for a future to our State more prosperous than any preceding era. The safety and honor of a Republic must rest upon the morality, intelligence and patriotism of the community.
- We are now in a transition state, which is always a bad one, both in society and in nature. What is to be the result of the changes which may be anticipated it is not possible to forecast, but our people have shown such fortitude and have risen so grandly from the deep depression inflicted upon them, that it is fair toe entertain bright hopes for the future. Sectional hate concentrating itself upon my devoted head, deprives me of the privileges accorded to others in the sweeping expression of "without distinction of race, color or previous condition," but it cannot deprive me of that which is nearest and dearest to my heart, the right to be a Mississippian, and it is with great gratification that I received this emphatic recognition of that right by the representatives of our people. Reared on the soil of Mississippi, the ambition of my boyhood was to do something which would redound to the honor and welfare of the State. The weight of many years admonishes me that my day for actual service has passed, yet the desire remains undiminished to see the people of Mississippi prosperous and happy and her fame not unlike the past, but gradually growing wider and brighter as years roll away.
- "Tis been said that I should apply to the United States for a pardon, but repentance must precede the right of pardon, and I have not repented. Remembering as I must all which has been suffered, all which has been lost, disappointed hopes and crushed aspirations, yet I deliberately say, if it were to do over again, I would again do just as I did in 1861. No one is the arbiter of his own fate. The people of the Confederate States did more in proportion to their numbers and means than was ever achieved by any in the world's history. Fate decreed that they should be unsuccessful in the effort to maintain their claim to resume the grants made to the Federal Government. Our people have accepted the decree; it therefore behooves them, as they may, to promote the general welfare of the Union, to show to the world that hereafter, as heretofore, the patriotism of our people is not measured by lines of latitude and longitude, but is as broad as the obligations they have assumed and embraces the whole of our ocean-bound domain. Let them leave to their children and children's children the grand example of never swerving from the path of duty, and preferring to return good for evil rather than to cherish the unmanly feeling of revenge. But never question or teach your children to desecrate the memory of the dead by admitting that their brothers were wrong in the effort to maintain the sovereignty, freedom and independence which was their inalienable birthright - remembering that the coming generations are the children of the heroic mothers whose devotion to our cause in its darkest hour sustained the strong and strengthened the weak, I cannot believe that the cause of which our sacrifices were made can ever be lost, but rather hope that those who now deny the justice of our asserted claims will learn from experience that the fathers builded wisely and the Constitution should be construed according to the commentaries of the men who made it.
- It having been previously understood that I would not attempt to do more than to return my thanks, which are far deeper than it would be possible for me to express, I will now, Senators and Representatives, and to you, ladies and gentlemen, who have honored me by your attendance, bid you an affectionate, and it may be, a last farewell.
- At the close of his address, he was seated in an easy chair, and for more than an hour extended his hand to the throng which passed to greet him. He was then conducted to the Executive office, where visitors continued to come and go. After dining at the Executive Mansion, where a number of old and valued friends were invited to meet him, the large parlors were thrown open and visitors continued to pay their respects until 1 o'clock in the morning.
- This was the last visit of the President to the city of Jackson, although he was subsequently urged to be present at the laying of the corner-stone of the Confederate Monument. A committee, consisting of Hon. Tim E. Cooper, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Hon. Thos. J. Wharton, Judge of the Circuit Court, and Capt. W. T. Ratliff, of Raymond, waited on Mr. Davis at Beauvoir, and made known to him the great desire of the people, and especially the veterans, that he should be present, but his health would not allow him to undertake the visit which, he assured them, would give him great pleasure; for he said, "though denied privileges accorded to others, the Government cannot deprive me of that which is nearest and dearest to my heath, THE RIGHT TO BE A MISSISSIPPIAN!"
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