Today in Canada's Political History - May 29, 1867: Jefferson Davis receives hero’s welcome in Kingston and Toronto

  • National Newswatch

Jefferson Davis, the former President of the U.S. Confederate states, was greeted by thousands during visits to Kingston and Toronto on this date in1867. He had just been released on bail from the U.S. fortress in Virginia where he had been held since his capture by Union forces at the end of the U.S. Civil War.

The Weekly British Whig reported on the Confederate’s arrival in Kingston. “The unfortunate gentlemen made a flying visit to Kingston yesterday accompanied by a few southern friends,” the paper reported. “He came up in the mail boat and stopped three hours in town. First, he took a walk around the city unnoticed but when he returned on board the news of his arrival had spread. It was quite an ovation for almost everybody who had heard of his fame and misfortunes called to see him. Mr. Jefferson Davis received them courteously and they were of all classes and when the vessel left for Toronto they were still coming on board.”

The next day the British Whig reported that in Toronto, Davis was greeted by 7,000 Torontonians as his triumphant tour through Canada continued. Eventually, the Confederate who had led the fight for the preservation of slavery in the United States, was to settle for a period in Montreal. His visit reminds us today how a large percentage of Canada’s population were sympathetic to the Confederacy at the time.

Arthur Milnes is an accomplished public historian and award-winning journalist. He was research assistant on The Rt. Hon. Brian Mulroney’s best-selling Memoirs and also served as a speechwriter to then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper and as a Fellow of the Queen’s Centre for the Study of Democracy under the leadership of Tom Axworthy. A resident of Kingston, Ontario, Milnes serves as the in-house historian at the 175 year-old Frontenac Club Hotel.