History Lesson Plan on President Jefferson Davis’ Inauguration Speech


Jefferson Davis

In his inauguration speech before the provisional Confederate Congress (and before the capital of the Southern Confederacy was moved to Richmond, VA), Jefferson Davis seem to emulate another southerner, George Washington, in his humble acceptance of his new role as president of a new country. A close reading of the President Jefferson Davis’ speech shows how Davis felt that secession was a renewal and as well as a vindication of the principles stated in the 1776 Declaration of Independence.

Behind Southern secession were “true believers” like Jefferson Davis. He believed that the South must go its separate way and that it could be done peacefully. The Union, President Jefferson Davis believed, was like a "marriage" between the States, who entered into the agreement voluntarily and should be allowed to end that agreement in an amicable “divorce.”

This lesson plan will encourage students to read and critically evaluate a primary source that states the Southern reasons for secession, as articulated by the Confederacy’s most prominent citizen.

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson plan, students should be able to understand Davis’ views that Southern secession; was:

♦ no different than the original movement for American Independence from the British;

♦ a “withdrawal from the voluntary compact” between the states in the original union;

♦ "a new “alliance” between sovereign states.

Resource Material

Jefferson Davis’ Inauguration Address

Order of Secession of the Confederate States

Constitution of the Confederate States

Class Activities

Print the annotated excerpt of Jefferson Davis’ Inaugural Speech for use either as:

An in-class handout and discussion,


A homework reading and short-answer writing assignment.

Click on the images below to see a preview of the speech excerpt:

Davis Speech, Page 1

Davis Speech - Page 2

Download the speech Excerpt and Answer Key

Download a Word file of the speech, followed by an answer key to the questions at "Excerpts from President Jefferson Davis’s Inaugural Speech" posted on the public media gallery.

Related Bright Hub Article

Lesson Plan for History: Confederate Alexander Stephens’ "Cornerstone Speech"

This post is part of the series: US Civil War Lesson Plans

Use these lesson plans to enrich your students’ understanding of America’s greatest conflict. Students will research, collaborate and critically examine the political, cultural, social and moral issues underlying the US Civil War.
  1. US Civil War Lesson Plan: Should Robert E. Lee Have Been Tried for Sedition?
  2. History Lesson Plan: Civil War Prison Camps
  3. Lesson Plan for History: The Inauguration Speech of President Jefferson Davis
  4. Civil War Lesson Plan: Confederate VP Alexander Stephens' "Cornerstone Speech"